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107216 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 
OF GEORGE INNESS 




GEORGE INNBSS 
(Painted by Goorgo 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 
OF GEORGE INNESS 



BY 

GEORGE INNESS, Jr. 



ILLUSTRATED WITH PORTRAITS "AND 
MANY REPRODUCTIONS OF PAINTINGS 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION 
BY ELLIOTT DAINGERFIBLD 




NEW YORK 

THE CENTURY CO. 

1917 



Copyright, 1917, by 
THE CENTCTRY Co. 

Published, October, 1917 



I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO 
MY DEAR WIFE 

JULIA GOODRICH INNESS 

WHO HAS FILLED MY LIFE WITH 

HAPPINESS AND WHOSE HELP 

AND COUNSEL HAVE MADE 

THIS WORK POSSIBLE 



PREFACE 

What I would like to give you is George Inness; 
as he was, as he talked, as he lived not what I saw 
in him or how I interpreted him, but him and hav- 
ing given you all I can remember of what he said and 
did I want you to form your own opinion. 

My story shall be a simple rendering of facts as 
I remember them; in other words, I will put the pig- 
ment on the canvas and leave it to you to form the 
picture. 

INNESS, JE. 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

I wish to acknowledge the courtesy of the follow- 
ing persons and institutions who have been of great 
assistance in furnishing me with the material for this 
book: Mrs, J. Scott Hartley, Mr. James W. Ells- 
worth, Mr. Thomas B. Clarke, Mr. Victor Harris, 
Mr. Martin A. Byerson and Mr* Ralph Cudney; The 
Metropolitan Museum of Art and M. Knoedler & 
Co., New York City, The Art Institute of Chicago. 

I wish also to make acknowledgment of the services 
of my friend, Leize R. Godwin, whose wise counsel 
has made the task of writing this book a pleasure* 



INTRODUCTION 

Biography is always interesting when true, and 
valuable in the same degree. It takes on a new char- 
acter when written by oneself in the form of mem- 
oirs, yet is seldom fully successful, because of the hu- 
man temptation to suppress real and interesting 
facts, or, when sufficient effrontery or courage if it 
be courage exists to tell everything, the reader is 
likely to be offended, even if interested. 

In this way the memoirs of Cellini might have been 
more valuable, though less interesting, if another had 
set down the truths of this man's inner life and char- 
acter. It is almost, if not quite, impossible for one to 
analyze one's own soul and write out for public gaze 
the secrets hidden there. It shocks the sensitive 
spirit and creates a wound not to be borne; therefore, 
as it seems to me, all biography treads the broad high- 
way of external facts and passing events, leaving the 
deep, still pools, which reflect all the spiritual and 
emotional being, untroubled. In this condition of 
things we must be content with what we can get, being 
assured that whatever we can preserve of the life and 

XX 



INTRODUCTION 

impulses of a great man will be of value to the world. 

It does not follow that intimacy gives one the privi- 
lege of interpretation, but at least it assures us a 
measure of truth, which increases its richness in the 
proportion of sympathy brought to the task, because 
sympathy begets insight. Without sympathy vir- 
tually all observation is blind, and no one quality in 
man's nature is so potent in removing the scales from 
true vision. 

We do not know what we should have had if 
George Inness had written his own biography. Ec- 
centric it certainly would have been, with slight at- 
tention paid to those externals which are of interest 
to the general reader; for he was the most impersonal 
of men. He was never interested in himself as a 
man, though he was interested in the artistic man* 
He believed in himself as an artist very profoundly, 
and his mind, which was most alert, was ever ddv- 
ing into or solving problems connected with what he 
called the principles of painting. Of this sort of 
thing we should have had a great deal, more indeed 
than any of us could have understood, because he was 
not always coherent. To himself his reasoning was 
very clear; indeed, he valued the results of these men- 
tal debates greatly, many times writing them down. 
What has become of these writings I do not know, 
but no doubt they were written in such a vagrant, <Ks- 

zii 



INTRODUCTION 

jointed way that they could not be pieced together by 
another. 

In speech his vocabulary was rapid, extensive, ex- 
treme, not always well chosen as to meaning; but, 
when supplied with gesture and expression, words 
took on new meanings, and for the time were under- 
standable* If reported verbatim, they would have 
failed of meaning. Just how they would have ap- 
peared in any biography I do not know, for cold type 
is ever a cruel critic. 

He once expounded to me what he called the ascent 
of a fleck of soot to the pure diamond by the vortexical 
progress, and proved, to himself at least, divinity. 
Frankly, I could not follow either the thought or the 
reasoning, though it seemed intensely interesting, 
and I begged him to write it down. He said that he 
had spent the night doing so, but I have never heard 
of the writing, and inquiry did not reveal it. During 
the delivery of this exegesis his declamation was flam- 
ing* very fierce, and assured. His eyes sparkled, and 
fais mane-like hair was tossed about, and hands were 
as vigorously in motion as possible, the whole manner 
commanding attention; but once completed, once 
fully told, the fever passed, and he was silent and very 
quiet* After such struggles he returned to his paint- 
ing with new spirit and new insight, and always one 
could see the growth in power in the work. Who 

xiii 



INTRODUCTION 

shall say what he saw within himself, what new realms 
or wide horizons were opened to his vision? 

He was a man of great energy, and with no great 
amount of strength otherwise, and always he drove 
himself to the utmost. His best work was ever ac- 
complished at white heat and under great emotion,, 
Watching him closely, I many times saw him at work 
with cold calculation, but without exception these pic- 
tures endured only for a time, and were repainted 
when the fever was upon him. It was this consuming 
energy which burned up his vitality and brought his 
end. There was no other reason, no disease or insist- 
ent illness sapping away his life, but rather a burning 
up. Many canvases which have come down to us in 
their beauty and glowing glory cost him days of ex- 
quisite agony, so that we may truly say of them that 
they were painted with heart's blood. 

In his mind there was no particle of that quality 
which we have come to know as modern art* His 
own was cast in those channels the canons of which 
have been written in all ages by those great men 
whose genius has made their work endure. He knew 
that fashion in art is a theory and a vain bubble, of no 
account to those who blow it or those who think its 
colors of worth. During his making days there 
were as many isms abroad 43 there are to-day, but he 
would have none of them, realizing keenly, as most 



XIV 



INTRODUCTION 

thoughtful men do, that their lure is rather to the man 
who has no power of thought, of invention within 
himself; that it is not, and, in its own nature, cannot 
be born of sincerity. Here alone is the rock upon 
which the true artist ever takes his stand, 

Our study of the great work of George Inness 
easily discovers its sincerity. It matters not if we 
are looking at the careful studies of early days or the 
more synthetic canvases of the last years, we read in 
them all knowledge. How like the name of a god 
the word comes in the midst of work based on crudity! 
To Inness it was an essential thing, and always be- 
hind the consciousness of knowledge was nature* 

In those works which express the man's message, 
there is never a servile copying of place or thing; yet 
both are in place, both fully understood, and the 
beauty of the nature he wishes us to see is fully re- 
vealed revealed, too, in George Inness's way. And 
that again is one of the beauties of great landscape art 
any art, for that matter, which claims to be fine 
art it is always plus the man. 

There is little gain for art in the exquisite copying 
of things. Many have tried it, many have spent long 
hours and days in servile reproduction, and begotten 
in the end an emptiness, a thing which has the same 
relation to art that an inanimate has to an animate 
creature; but in the study which produces understand- 

xv 



INTRODUCTION 

ing, in the loving observation which teaches, in the ab- 
sorption of idea in such ways men acquire the 
knowledge which gives them expression, which per- 
mits them, within the silence of four blank walls, to 
see visions and to give gifts to men. It is through 
such works that we know and love the great men, and 
through such works that they uplift humanity and 
better civilization. They left for us a curtain, and 
eyes which have been dull before are illumined. A 
great work, indeed! 

It is because of this great inner vision that George 
Inness must take rank among the greatest landscape- 
painters, almost, we might say, himself the greatest 
of all, but for that American objection to the claims 
of any man in any walk of life to being acclaimed 
greatest. 

Yet a measure of his work is being taken by the 
passing years, and we begin to see what a genius has 
dwelt among us. No matter the carping voice of 
critic, no matter the contempt of little painters of 
painted things, this was his towering gift to us this 
power to present the essence of things. Consider, 
the greatest of his pictures were painted out of what 
people fondly call his imagination, Ms memory 
painted within the four walls of a room, away from 
and without reference to any particular nature; for 
he himself was nature. And it is not done the beauty 

xvi 



INTRODUCTION 

of a great elm against a sunlit sky, it is not merely the 
chase of storm-driven clouds, it is not only the crash 
and thunder of mighty seas against the rock-ribbed 
shores of a continent, not morning, noon, or night; 
not one, but all were his, and all are George 
Inness, 

His versatility was enormous; the glow of it 
wrapped about him like a flame. His eyes burned 
like fire when in coal and red-hot; he looked through 
the blank canvas, through the besmeared paint, 
through the days and hours of work, to that vision 
which was within himself, and that alone was his goal, 
and no likeness of any place or thing tempted him 
aside. The impetuosity of it as he approached the 
goal was like a storm, and to any but an understand- 
ing eye the process was as devastating as a storm; but 
high above the trammels of technic, of form, of color, 
or pigment, his soul, eagle-like, soared to its aery, and 
the vision, wide of horizon, perfect in all its parts, 
was complete. Men do not paint so who have not the 
immortal spark. Tiresome drones who do their lit- 
tle, and delude themselves how easily are they 
scorched in such a fire! Fire it was, but not always 
alight. No man had deeper moods of despondency, 
BO man suffered more deeply under baffled aims, no 
man more ruthlessly destroyed in order to make new, 
tfaaa this painter; but like a grim warrior, against 



INTRODUCTION 

whose striving the battle has gone badly, he would 
say, "I '11 do it to-morrow/' The splendor of this 
courage never left him. To the last he knew and be- 
lieved in his own gift, and seldom did it fail him. 
Time alone was needed, and the beautiful thing was 
sure of birth. 

There is no doubt that he died when his powers 
were at their full; he would not have been content to 
linger if they had waned, and he would have been 
keenly aware of it. 

Elsewhere I have tried to show that there was 
change: the early, exact, careful analysis; the mid- 
dle, broader, fuller, more colored period; and the 
latest, synthetic style, which includes so many of 
his beautiful works. But always the power was 
there. 

It is perhaps interesting to note the difference in 
the artist who works in the way that I have here tried 
to indicate and in that more exact copyist, who, strong 
only in his eyes, and depending always upon them, 
grows blind and weak at the last. His is never the 
glory of departing in flame, like some grand old vik- 
ing, who seeks his rest in the burning hour of inspira- 
tion. 

A painter critic has spoken of Mr. Xnness's technic 
as being "empirical." By technic he refers to the 
method of using his pigment to produce result* Such 

xviii 



INTRODUCTION 

an opinion is largely the voice of the schoolman, of 
one who in the schools was taught the precise method 
of mixing tints and conveying them to the canvas, 
each tintjto represent a certain plane or value in the 
form. One does not want to quarrel with the schools, 
for their place and usefulness is clear, but it is quite 
possible to say that the student who stops with what 
he gains in a school does not go far* If he does not 
pursue, investigate, and experiment, he will never dis- 
cover, and discovery is essential to any personal tech- 
nical expression; and such development, when suc- 
cessful, is apt to reveal not only the painter, but the 
artist. Also, one must be able to control this result 
of experiment until it becomes a servant, willing, 
plastic, ready at all times to the guiding will. This 
was colossally so with George Inness, and his technical 
power was so superior to what the intellectual school- 
men accomplish that his work burns with the fire of 
genius and inspiration. He himself believed that his 
method was intensely scientific. Certainly the proof 
lies in his work. If there were times when it seemed 
to fail him, times when change and repainting were 
necessary, it may not rest a charge against the clarity 
of his method. Much goes into the use of pigment 
other than brush-work. An over-strained nervous 
system, a stomach out of order, a voice which persists 
wiU untune the finer forces and render a day's work 

xix 



INTRODUCTION 

wholly abortive; the humming of a fly or bee has 
robbed many a sensitive artist of his day's result. 

Iiiness knew truths of color that I have never 
known any one else even to glimpse. He knew great 
principles of color application which lesser men could 
not grasp. He had no interest in details of color or 
in small, attentuated tints. His was the power of 
mass, the authority of tone upon tone, the concen- 
tration of a tone in its base color, which lured you into 
consciousness of its presence. In another it would 
have been inconceivably dull and stagnant. For 
these reasons and more I believe he not only had a 
masterly technic, but I believe it more nearly equaled 
the strength and understanding of the great masters 
than any of our men have attained. He is certainly 
not like any one of the great galaxy; you may find 
kinship of energy and dynamic force in Tintoretto 
more than another. He was fond of thinking it was 
Titian he most resembled, and the spiritist mediums, 
finding this out, were forever telling him that Titian 
stood at his elbow. The impetuosity of Tintoretto 
was fully reflected in Inness: his swiftness in composi- 
tion, his ease of expression with the brush in great 
masses without previous outlines reflects, also, some 
of the great Italian's characteristics, and each had the 
capacity for holding the wild, splendid force in leash 
until great tenderness was achieved. To say, then, 

xx 



INTRODUCTION 

that his technic was anything but suitable is to mis- 
state, and to misunderstand the man. 

Among the younger painters of the day it is a 
habit to speak slightingly of Mr. Inness and his 
method of work. They say his technic was fumbling, 
uncertain, glazy, and lacking in directness; that he 
could not paint frankly or directly; that his effects 
were rather matters of chance than anything else. 
Oh, the wisdom of youth youth whose smallest ut- 
terance is axiomatic! Have they ever seriously 
looked upon the "Gray, Lowery Day/' a canvas 
painted rapidly, with no hint of glaze or fumble, a 
canvas in which the goal is reached with the pre- 
cision of the great master? And such a goal! Here 
is no simple sketch of uninteresting objects, but a 
mood of nature so subtle that thought of it even is 
intangible and enveloped within intricacies of form 
so elaborate that the rendering of them under most 
passive conditions would tax the powers of any tech- 
nician; and yet this envelop of moist, rainy atmos- 
phere is rendered with a direct touch, a transfer of 
pigment to canvas as direct and exact as a Franz 
Hals or a John Sargent, both the gods of direct paint- 
ing; and in the finished result Mr. Inness has pro- 
duced a work of unity and pure beauty, enough in it- 
self to proclaim him a world master. 

Or, again, may I direct the attention of these im- 

xxi 



INTRODUCTION 

mature artists to that other well-known work and 
very noble example of direct painting, the "Summer 
Foliage/' a picture in which the difficulties were enor- 
mous and the details most elaborate, involving, also, 
a control over greens, which is a most trying color to 
manage, and the brush of George Inness moves with 
a sanity and joy that is fair necromancy? No jug- 
gler could have handled his material with more alert- 
ness and conviction, and there has never for an in- 
stant been the loss of the central vision of beauty. 
This was the creed of George Inness beauty. 
Translated into all its forms, loved as spirit, religion, 
God, this he searched daily, hourly, and worshiped* 

Could he have had an early intellectual, even scien- 
tific, training, he would have reached tremendous 
heights intellectually, for his mind was that of an in* 
vestigator. If to-day the things we read of his are in- 
coherent, they are so rather in form than substance. 
A careful analysis will discover the true center, the 
germ truth which he wished to convey, and nearly al- 
ways it is a vision, a creation of an intense, yearning 
spirit. Intense, eager, often abandoned in his speech, 
there was the glow of idea behind all his thought; and 
however abstruse the theme, he carried it back with 
unerring persistence to his work* There, he knew, 
was his chief hope of expression. 

Does it matter if untrained minds can not read 



INTROJLJUL/JLJLUJW 

these things in his works? Does it matter if a large 
element of the general public, or even the artistic 
public, shall say these things are purely imaginary, no 
picture can contain such things, it is merely what it 
appears to be, and that ends it? The answer is, 
George Inness did not trouble himself to paint for 
this public. First and foremost, he, the artist, not 
the man, was to be satisfied; he must be able to dis- 
cern in the work that significance he sought to hand 
on, and when he found it in his picture, that moment 
the canvas was finished. Finished then for him was 
expression. Try him by no other laws. Complain 
not of roughness or smoothness, cavil not at incom- 
plete or imperfectly rendered forms, at blemishes, or 
scratches, or unexplained spots. These may all be 
present, but behind all is the man, and his vision 
freely given and freely expressed. If we cannot see, 
the fault lies in ourselves. 

Just as truly all these things may be said of any 
of the masters: of Corot less perhaps than of Rous- 
seau; of Dupre more than of Millet; of Velasquez; 
of Hals; of everybody who has been remembered in 
the great mill-race flood of painters through the ages. 
Few, alas! can grapple with the mighty forces under- 
lying a great work; but none surely may be frivolous 
or contemptuous in its presence, unless, indeed, he be 

xxiii 



INTRODUCTION 

a Post-impressionist or Futurist, But, then, I am 
speaking of human beings. 

Can any sane man, however untrained, go into the 
presence of the great portrait of Innocent X by 
Velasquez and remain unmoved? Can any man of 
even partial culture remain unmoved in the presence 
of the great "Moonlight" recently shown by George 
Inness? These are of the essence of greatness, and 
it is this essence which George Inness distilled In the 
long years of his labor, until in the end the roll of his 
great achievements was very long, 

He often wished that he might be privileged to 
paint only one truly great work. Perhaps, in those 
halls where gather the great of all times and ages and 
peoples he has been welcomed with this assurance. 
That might well be heaven indeed to so striving a 
soul. 

Mr. Inness was most happily fortunate in his mar- 
riage. To one of his impetuous, easily ruffled nature 
the lack of sympathy in his wife would have been. a 
constant irritation and impediment to his progress; 
but his wife was sensitive to his every mood, careful 
of his needs, keenly alive to his hopes in Ms work, and 
to the last hour of his life his comfort and his friend. 
That last cry at the Bridged-Allan, when he knew 
the final moment had come, was not to God or man* 

xxiv 



INTRODUCTION 

"Take me to my wife," he said. She was then his 
refuge and his strength, and we, who have had so 
much from him, must remember her, with fullest 
gratitude. 

You will search far in his work to find an insincere 
canvas or an irreverent one. If there were times 
when he painted the uncongenial thing because it was 
ordered, it was done that he might be free to pursue 
those beacons which ever burned ahead of him. 

No man ever had a more bitter tongue for the thing 
which was untrue in art "a sham," as he called it. 
No man could scold with sterner rebuke, and 
none was more generous in praise when it was de- 
served. 

If we are to estimate him correctly or fully, we 
must see clearly and bring together all these quali- 
ties, and then only may we discover the true worth of 
his work, 

It is not enough to say, "That 's a fine thing," of a 
work which contains so much. It is not enough to 
pass it with a slight comment, as we see so frequently 
done by our critics. A great work merits great at- 
tention and deep consideration, and it is necessary to 
bring to such consideration ripe understanding. Also 
preconceived bias warps judgment. Mr. Inness was 
not always a good critic; his own thoughts dominated 
Mm, forced him to see things in his own way; and to 

XXV 



INTRODUCTION 

yield to him palette and brushes was to unfold speed- 
ily not a criticism, but an Inness. Perhaps this 
should be so, as a strong personality should not give 
up its own; but one would look elsewhere for criticism, 
For such reasons, no doubt, Mr. Inness had no pu- 
pils. He had from time to time certain men near 
him, but with him to teach meant to control. 

I have always been glad that he was so violent* It 
is better to swallow one's spleen and learn than to 
chew the rag of discontent. 

Nowhere in his work will be found any picture with 
likeness to the art of another; they are his own, 
warp and woof, and no shred of anybody else creeps 
in, and this despite his avowed admiration for many 
others. Time after time I Ve heard him say of some 
finished thing, when his enthusiasm was ripe, "It *>s 
like a Claude," or a "Turner," and then slyly, "but 
it's more like an Inness/' For Claude and for 
Turner he had great admiration, but also ready 
criticism. He was hostile to anything that was 
"niggled/' Breadth was essential, and for this qual- 
ity many of his own works were obliterated, but his 
relentless courage brought the great work to comple- 
tion in time. 

Much has been written of him as artist and man, 
much that savors merely of the reporter's comments, 
and some things so vague and wordy that nothing of 

xxvi 



INTRODUCTION 

an image remains. I, myself, have tried to set down 
hi various places and ways my impressions gained in 
many years of close association, but I am aware of 
the futility of recreation. He has gone, and the wis- 
est and best way to know George Inness is to sit before 
his works, to search them to their depths, to study 
each item of composition, its bearing upon the great 
mass, to find, if one may, the law by which he con- 
structed his proportions and placements, to discover 
the reasons for color or tone choice, or that deeper 
significance, the impulse, artistic and religious, which 
created it. So we will come into closer touch with 
his great genius, so we will live with his spirit, and 
presently be able to understand why he should be ac- 
corded that high place in landscape art which is sec- 
ond to none, more dynamic than many, intenser than 
all, true as the best, and with a musical chord in his 
color that has never been approached. 

In the work before us his son, an artist of rich at- 
tainments, has given us a picture of his father, the 
man and his habits, and with this has told to us, in in- 
cident and story, many of them new to me as they 
will be to the public, all reflecting most clearly the in- 
genuous nature of his father. With this he has com- 
bined letters and opinions of great value, the letters 
being tender, sweet chords from that melody of per- 
fect love which existed between the master and his 



XXVH 



INTRODUCTION 

wife, f ull of the faith and trust which made her pres- 
ence his inspiration. In the writings, some of a 
purely scientific nature, it is necessary to acquaint 
oneself with his point of view, his trend of thought; 
once this is secured, the reasoning clarifies and be- 
comes of greatest value. 

At a moment in our art when the young people 
and many of the public are being hoodwinked and 
blinded by the follies which followed the first on- 
slaught of Impressionism, like a procession of harle- 
quins, gnomes, misshapen and weird things, the opin- 
ion of George Inness is worth study and reflection. 
His was not a sight to be blinded by an eccentricity, 
his was not an experience to be misled, nor could he 
beKeve the message of the masters was to be ignored; 
therefore, brief as they are, and I would that the 
"mountains of writings" Mr. Inness often referred 
to had been given us entire, their value is ex* 
treme. 

The picture is very clear; the man revisits us, and 
the wizardry of his work is our precious possession. 

Time, inexorable and vast, passes along the way; 
he reaps here and he reaps there, and the reapings faU 
and wither, but ever he stops with each passing year 
to lay a fresh leaf of imperishable laurel upon the 
calm brow of him who lives forever. 

ELLIOTT DAINGERFEELD, 

xxviii 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER 

I BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 3 

Birth and early life. Opposition of his family to Art. 
Grocery store episode. Early aspiration. First in- 
structions. Ogden Haggerty. 

II EARLY INFLUENCES ......... 20 

Religious thought. Courtship and marriage. First 
trip to Europe. Influence of Old Masters. Financial 
struggles. Williams and Everett. 

Ill MEDFIELD PERIOD ^ > M ;,. , 36 

Family life. Development of Art. 

IV MEDFIELD PEEIOD II .... ^ ... , , 48 
Tom Barney, The diamond necklace. 

V THE EAGIESWOOD PERIOD 58 

Spiritual unfolding. William Page and the teaching 
of Swedenborg. Religious theories. Brooklyn. Elec- 
tion to Academy of Design. 

VI FOREIGN 1 INFLUENCE 75 

Rome. Contempt for commercialism in Art. Paris. 
Return to America. Mr. Maynard's dinner. Doll and 
Richards. 

VII NEW YORK -96 

Development of style. Financial stress. Poems. 
Wife's influence. Generosity. 

VIII NEW YORK II 

Theories and manner of painting. The building of a 
picture. J. G, Brown. "The Lost Sheep." 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

IX LETTERS , . 148 

"The Old Man." Enthusiasm for figure painting. Im- 
pressionism. 

X SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION ...... 177 

Montclair. The Famous Niagara. Benjamin Con- 
stant. Thomas B. Clark. Prosperity. Writing and 
Spiritual Research. The Photographer. 

XI THE PASSING OF GEOBGE INNESS 209 

XII THE AKT OF GEORGE INNESS 226 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 



George Inness Frontispiece 

George Inness, Jr 5 

The Mill . . . 16 

A Water-Color Drawing of Trees 26 

Stone Pines > . 31 

Light Triumphant 87 

Medfield Meadows 44 

Evening at Medfield 50 

Some Family Portraits 59 

Peace and Plenty 65 

The Delaware Valley ,.72 

The Catskill Mountains 77 

Olive Trees at Tivoli ,.... 83 

Barbarini Pines ,. . . 90 

Old Apple Trees . , . ,. . 99 

The Green Hillside ,.109 

Twilight After the Shower 116 

The Spring Blossoms 121 

Autumn Morning 127 

Dawn 134 

Summer Silence - 143 

Midsummer 159 

The Old Veteran 160 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



Early Morning Tarpon Springs 165 

Georgia Pines 171 

Niagara Falls 182 

Home at Montclair 187 

Indian Summer * 193 

Threatening 204 

The Bathers ............... 213 

The Hay Field ...,...,...,.. 228 
Autumn Oaks ..-........,. 229 

The Greenwood ............ 286 

Etratet 242 

Shower on the Delaware River ..*** 248 

The Mill Pond . 257 

Moonlight on Passamaquoddy Bay *.... 268 

The Trout Brook 270 

Moon Rise 279 

Under the Greenwood ......., 285 



LIFE, .ART, AJSTID LETTERS OF 
GEORGE INNESS 



**Let us believe in Art, not as something to gratify 
curiosity or suit commercial ends, but something to be loved 
and cherished because it is the Handmaid of the Spiritual 

Life of the age." 

* GEOKGE INNESS 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 
OF GEORGE INNESS 

CHAPTER I 

BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

MY first recollection of my father was 
watching him paint a wash-tub, and the 
impression then made has never left me. 
In my eyes he was a hero, a wizard, for there stood 
the tub, it was a round one of white pine, bound with 
three brass hoops, and it had handles opposite each 
other that stood up above the sides, and suddenly 
it began to assume another color, a green vivid enough 
to charm the soul of any child. The odor of oil and 
turpentine is still in my nostrils, and in my long ex- 
perience of oil and turpentine, covering a period of 
more than fifty years, I have never since encountered 
just the same odor. I have watched many painters 
paint tubs, houses, wagons, and other things since 
then, but never have I seen a painter do it in quite 
the same way. 

Pop I always called him Pop drew the brush 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

along the tub, leaving a long green streak; then he 
stepped back several paces and held his hand above 
his eyes and looked at the effect, a gesture and a posi- 
tion that were characteristic of my father through- 
out his life. This was repeated after every few 
strokes of the brush until the whole was complete, and 
there stood the tub in all its glory of green. It was 
so beautiful that I was almost frightened. Pop took 
me by the hand and led me from the room. From 
that time until we moved to the country, Medfield, 
Massachusetts, most of my memory seems to be a 
blank. 

But before going into the Medfield period, which 
was one of the most important in my father's life, I 
want to' go back and trace the early steps that led up 
to the achievements of those maturer years in Massa- 
chusetts* 

Much has been written to give the impression that 
my. father sprang from poor and humble folk, and 
that, like Benjamin West, the one-time president of 
the Royal Academy, and others, he had to resort to 
such measures as cutting off the cat's tail to obtain a 
paint-brush, and use the juice of huckleberry-pie and 
raspberry jam for colors with which to paint his mas- 
terpieces. Such things teach a fine moral for the 
school reader, but the obstacles with which my father 
had to contend in his early life were not financial ones* 




GEORGE INNESS, JR. 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

His parents were well-to-do people and for the time 
in which they lived were considered rich. 

My grandfather was a prosperous merchant of 
Scotch descent. He was energetic and thrifty and 
was ambitious for his children's success. Having 
made his fortune early in life he retired from active 
business and bought a farm near Newburg, New 
York, more, I fancy, for recreation than for profit. 
It was there on May 1, 1825, that George Inness was 
born. He was the fifth of thirteen children. All his 
brothers entered mercantile life and became very 
successful business men. 

When George was only a few months old, and be- 
fore the time of Hudson River boats, the elder In- 
ness moved his family to New York in an antiquated 
vessel of some sort* George, being an infant, was 
laid in a basket so that the perilous journey might be 
more comfortably made. 

Four years later they moved to Newark, !N"ew 
Jersey, where my father's boyhood was spent. New- 
ark was "then a little country town, and the Inness 
residence was on top of a high hill overlooking rich 
farm lands. Later this land was laid out in streets. 
My grandfather's house stood where High Street and 
Nesbit Street, now Central Avenue, meet in the heart 
of the great manufacturing center of Newark. 

While in that city my father attended the acad- 

7, 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

emy. It soon became evident that he was making 
little progress with his studies; and after repeated fail- 
ure he was declared deficient, and it was decided that 
it was useless to keep him at school. 

That he was not dull or stupid is shown by the fact 
that his sisters, who are still living, testify to his clev- 
erness and fun-loving propensities. One story they 
tell is that he made and operated a galvanic battery. 
What uses the battery was put to beyond giving 
shocks to the other children and the family cat I do 
not know. But that was sufficient to prove that it 
"worked/' 

Among other pranks that come natural to the small 
boy, he modeled snakes and fierce reptiles from wax, 
painted them bright colors, and put them in the cup- 
boards to frighten the maids and any one else who 
happened to have business there* Like many a 
genius before him, the tortured and provincial 
methods of schoolmasters cramped his imagination 
and forced him into more original developments* 

Of delicate health, and endowed with a keenly 
sensitive nature, the boy was considered "different,** 
He was a dreamer, an idealist from earliest child- 
hood, and lived much in a world of his own imagin- 
ings. In speaking of his aims and ambitions, my 
father once told me that his desires first began to 
crystallize when, as a very little chap, he saw a man 

8 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

painting a picture out in a field. Immediately a 
responsive chord was struck, and his own nebulous 
groping for self-expression became at once a con- 
crete idea. Then and there he made up his mind 
that when he grew up he would be a painter. He 
told me that he thought it the most wonderful thing 
in the world to make with paint the things that he saw 
around him, clouds, trees, sunsets, and storms, the 
very things that brought him fame in later years. He 
told me with what awe he viewed the difficulty of get- 
ting a piece of paper big enough, for he thought that 
to paint a landscape one had to have a paper as large 
as the scene itself a thought as naively conceived as 
it was expressed, which showed even then the breadth 
and largeness of his nature as manifested in feeling 
and expression in his canvases. 

Had his parents been of finer clay they would have 
seen that this boy with a vision was destined for some- 
thing higher than the mercantile life into which they 
tried to force him; or had he been born on the other 
side of the water, his talent for art would have been 
fostered and encouraged not only by his family, but 
by the state, as was the case with Millet and others of 
the French school, who were sent to Paris to study at 
the expense of the communities in which they lived. 

But it must be remembered that in this country at 
$he time of George Inness's birth there were virtually 

9 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

no advantages to be had in art, and there were even 
less interest and appreciation in the development of 
it. In the building of our nation there had been lit- 
tle time to explore the esthetic fields of art. There 
had been no time for pictures. A picture-painter was 
beyond the pale. An artist was little short of a dis- 
grace, A painter of pictures I A ne'er-do-well! 
George Inness might as well have been a play-actor, 
a piano-player, or a poet. He was frankly a disap- 
pointment. 

On one occasion I remember so well how Pop 
would tell it with a chuckle he met his brother Joe 
on the street. Joe was at that time a cash-boy in a 
dry-goods store, and a very important young person 
in his own eyes. When he saw my father he assumed 
a somewhat superior attitude; in fact he did not have 
to assume it. It was more or less chronic with him, 
but he no doubt increased it. 

"Hello, George," he said, and rattled his coins in 
his pocket. "Made any money to-day painting pic- 
tures? Why don't you go to work and do some- 
thing? Make a living like I am doing, instead of 
wasting your time painting pictures. Who wants 
pictures?" Father didn't say much, but he seized 
him by the scruff of the neck, and when he got 
through with him, there was not enough left of Joe to 
listen to father's answer. 

10 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

3?his attitude on the part of his family was of little 
moment to Pop. Fired with a passionate desire to 
put down on canvas what he saw in nature, the beau- 
ties of the world around him, he kept his vision clear. 
Nor did he surrender for one moment that determina- 
tion that carried him to the foremost ranks of Ameri- 
can art* 

However, a faint hope lingered in tHe practical, 
paternal breast. There was yet time to make a man 
of the boy. His schooling had been a failure. The 
elder Inness conceded that, but he determined to try 
more practical methods ; so at the age of fourteen my 
father was ensconced in a little grocery-store on the 
corner of Washington and New streets, Newark, as 
sole proprietor and owner. He used to love to tell 
about those days, of how he concealed a canvas, a 
few paints and brushes, and an easel behind the 
counter; and how he would sit there and paint by the 
hour amidst the odors of onions, soap, sulphur 
matches, and kindling wood; and how, when custom- 
ers came, he would duck behind the counter and wait 
until they left. By such methods business waned, 
and at the end of a month an episode occurred which 
brought the experiment to a close, and proved to be 
the turning-point in my father's career. After a day 
of unusual activity and many distractions a little girl 
entered the store. Father crouched behind the 

11 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

counter as was his habit, hoping the child would leave 
when she found no one to wait upon her* But the 
little girl, equally determined to carry out her mis- 
sion, stood on tiptoes, reached up, and jingled her 
pennies so persistently on the counter that the young 
painter's nerves gave way, and he sprang from his 
lair like a jack-in-the-box and yelled: 

"What in the name of all the devils do you want?" 

Terrified, the little girl rushed from the store and 
down the street crying: 

"Candles! candles! candles!" 

Thoroughly exasperated, the boy gathered up his 
beloved canvases and all the tools of his chosen pro- 
fession, and walked out of the store. He carefully 
locked the door, put up the heavy wooden shutters at 
the windows, and turned his back forever on com- 
mercial life. Thus the greatest conquest of his life 
was won. 

At such a time when one does not have proper per- 
spective on actions and conditions in life, a thing such 
as this grocery-store incident would seem a catas- 
trophe; no doubt it did to my father's family, but in 
the light of retrospection we see that just such a rad- 
ical move was necessary to force the embryo artist to 
that point of exasperation which culminated in the 
actual turning-point in his career. It was tfce jolt 
that pushed him into his proper channel. 

12 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

It was a wise decision on my grandfather's part, 
when realizing that it was quite impossible to fit a 
square peg into a round hole, he abandoned the hope 
of molding his son to his own desires, and placed him 
in the studio of a man named Barker, a teacher of 
drawing and painting in Newark, to learn the trade. 
For if his son persisted in being a vagabond painter, 
he wanted to make him as good a one as was in his 
power, and give him every advantage that he could. 
After a few months of instruction Barker Declared 
that he could teach George no more, that the boy knew 
as much as he did. 

Later he worked in an engraver's office, but his 
health was poor and his inclinations weak, so he soon 
abandoned this branch of the arts and entered the 
studio of Regis Gignoux, a French artist of some 
local reputation, whose landscapes may be seen to-day 
among the older collections in New York. Gignoux 
had lived in Paris, and had been a pupil of Paul Dela- 
roche ; therefore it was with a keen interest that my 
father took up his studies with one who seemed to 
him at that time eminent. He did not stay with 
Gignoux long but learned from him the handling of 
color and the theories of composition, but, as Alfred 
Trumble expresses it in his "Memorial of George In- 
ness," "The pictures themselves did not satisfy him. 
He knew that he was groping in the dark. He was 

13 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

painting as others around him were painting, not as 
he felt, as he wished to paint* These things, Be ar- 
gued with himself, .were not nature. They had none 
of the spirit of nature in them. They were mere col- 
ored drawings, inspired with none of the movement 
and vitality that he felt instinctively when he looked 
abroad at forest .and farm land, mountain, river, and 
sky." 

"One afternoon," said Inness, "when I was com- 
pletely dispirited and disgusted, I gave over work 
and went out for a walk. In a print-shop window I 
noticed an engraving after one of the old masters. I 
do not remember what picture it was. I could not 
then analyze that which attracted me in it, but it fas- 
cinated me. The print-seller showed me others, and 
they repeated the same sensation in me* There was 
a power of motive, a bigness of grasp, in them* They 
were nature, rendered grand instead of being belittled 
by trifling detail and puny execution. I began to 
take them out with me to compare them with nature 
as she really appeared, and the light began to dawn. 
I had no originals to study, but I found some of their 
qualities in Cole and Durand, to which I had access, 
There was a lofty striving in Cole, although he did 
not technically realize that for which he reached* 
There was in Durand a more intimate feeliag of && 

14 




THE MILL 
(Painted at sixteen) 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

ture. *If / thought I, 'these two can only be com- 
bined I will tryl'" 

The result is well known to all lovers of Inness. 
Not only did he succeed in combining those qualities 
that impressed him in the works of the masters that 
he studied assiduously, but he added that dominant 
quality of spirituality, or bigness of vision, that was 
the key-note of his life. I cannot express it better 
than by letting him speak direct. He said: 

"The true use of art is, first, to cultivate the artist's 
own spiritua) nature, and, second, to enter as a factor 
in general civilization. And the increase of these 
effects depends on the purity of the artist's motive in 
the pursuit of art. Every artist who, without refer- 
ence to external circumstances, aims truly to repre- 
sent the ideas and emotions which come to him when 
he is in the presence of nature is in process of his own 
spiritual development and is a benefactor of his race. 
Of course no man's motive can be absolutely pure 
and single. His environment affects him. But the 
true artistic impulse is divine" 

When he was scarcely more than a boy he married 
Delia Miller of Newark, who died a few months after- 
ward. This marriage seems to have been of little 
importance; it was apparently only an episode in his 
early life. 

17 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

He now opened his first studio, and began to paint 
according to the new ideas he had obtained from the 
study of the old prints. Not only friends, but fellow- 
artists, so called, tried to persuade him that he could 
never paint that way* Set rules were laid down for 
painting landscapes, and they must not be violated by 
a mere upstart boy who would not paint his fore- 
ground trees brown, and who persisted in leaving out 
the plant, the foreground plant, the key to the Hud- 
son River school. In consequence his struggle for 
existence became more acute, until his brothers finally 
had to come to the rescue, and for several years kept 
his head above water by buying his pictures and re- 
selling them when and where they could. His con- 
tempt for the commercial aspect of life was profound, 
and he made no attempt to conceal it. He has ex- 
pressed himself many times in tones that left no room 
for contradiction that business was obligated to sus- 
tain art, and that merchants were created only to 
support artists. 

Despite the opposition against which he battled 
there were a few progressive souls dominant enough 
and wise enough to recognize and proclaim genius. 
One day when Inness was out in the open square 
sketching a crowd gathered around him and gazed 
with awe. Such things as artists painting in the 
parks were unheard of in those days. The crowd, 

18 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

having satisfied its curiosity, melted away; but there 
remained one man whose interest was more than idle 
curiosity, for when the sketch was nearly complete he 
said to the young painter: 

"If you will bring the picture to my house when 
you finish it, I will give you a hundred dollars for it." 

That man was Ogden Haggerty, a prominent auc- 
tioneer in New York. He was the first to recognize 
my father's possibilities, and later became so con- 
vinced of his genius that he sent him abroad to study, 
and was one of the main factors in his development as 
a painter. 



19 



CHAPTER II 

EARLY INFLUENCES 

NOT only was my father born in a period of 
the world's history when art was under- 
going a very radical change, but coexistent 
with that change there was taking place a subtle 
renaissance of spiritual thought. Dissatisfied with 
the outworn forms and traditions of worship, indi- 
vidual thinkers were asserting themselves, and now 
and then a powerful thought was projected, causing 
new impressions to rise to the surface of the sea of 
religious ideas, showing the undercurrent of a mighty 
change that was taking place in the world of mind. 
George Inness was just such a thinker, though he 
wandered through all phases of religious expression 
to find himself, and was well on towards middle life 
before he found that medium which satisfied him* 

Born into a family of various creeds and beliefs, 
the boy was brought up on religious discussion. His 
mother was a devout Methodist, his aunt, who later 
became his stepmother, was an equally devout Bap- 
tist. His uncle, his mother's brother, was a stanch 
Universalist, and was as uncompromising in his be- 

20 



EARLY INFLUENCES 

liefs as the other members of the family; hence re- 
ligious discussion became the principal topic of con- 
versation, or, I should say, argument, in the home- 
circle. This state of affairs led to self -investigation, 
and being naturally introspective, the search for truth 
soon became a passion in the life of the young thinker. 
He joined first one church and then another, hoping 
thereby to find that which would satisfy his spiritual 
craving. There was something inspiring in the inten- 
sity with which he searched and groped for light in his 
life. Deep spiritual concentration and true desire for 
illumination were ingrained in his very souL There 
was no compromise; above all else he wanted that 
thing that would put God into his every-day life, and 
so he went from church to church, from creed to creed, 
trying conscientiously to reconcile each in turn to the 
truth as he saw it. In 1849 we have record that he 
joined the Baptist Church and was baptized in the 
North River. Although he was not rewarded in what 
he sought in that faith, the law of compensation inva- 
riably operates, and perhaps, after all, it was fate 
which led him there. How often we have to wander 
in search of one thing to find that which we are not 
entirely aware of desiring! X>ne Sunday morning 
while attending the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church 
he was listening to the sermon, no doubt a long-winded 
dissertation, when his attention became attracted to a 

21 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

very beautiful young woman across the aisle. From 
that moment the discourse of the eminent divine had 
no further charms, and his eyes and attention were 
riveted on that beautiful face, which he has described 
to me often. He never tired of telling of that morn- 
ing. 

"George," he would say, "it was a dream. The 
beauty of that face and the graceful pose of that head 
were something that even Raphael could not have 
caught." 

At the close of the service she hurried home. Close 
behind her followed the impetuous young lover, never 
losing sight of her for a moment until she disappeared 
into a little house on Varick Street. 

In telling me of her feelings, for I later knew the 
lady very well, she said that when she realized that 
she was being followed she became greatly perturbed, 
and felt a tremendous sense of relief when the front 
door closed behind her; but curiosity getting the bet- 
ter of her, she peeped through the window-curtain and 
saw the dashing young stranger, with his long hair 
and flowing cloak, pace back and forth in front of the 
house. Then, to her astonishment, he mounted the 
steps. As she was alone in the house, she felt 
alarmed, but determined to respond to the caU of the 
bell. 



EARLY INFLUENCES 

As the door swung open Inness saw the beautiful 
object of his affections, and with a low bow said: 

"Pardon me; can you tell me if Miss Mary Inness 
lives here?" Mary was his sister, whom he had left 
only a few hours before in their home on Broome 
Street, 

"No," she replied; "she does not. I have heard of 
Miss Inness, but I do not know where she lives." 

With profuse thanks and another low bow, they 
parted. Pop was more enamored than ever. He 
rushed home and told his sister Mary that he had seen 
the most beautiful woman in the world and that he 
was going to marry her. After a brief, but no doubt 
vivid, description, Mary recognized the young woman 
as Elizabeth Hart, and through the pleading of 
George and the cooperation of a friend who knew Miss 
Hart, a party was arranged, and Miss Hart invited. 
Still in ignorance of the identity of the handsome 
stranger of the Sunday before and not connecting 
him with the party, Miss Hart accepted Miss Inness's 
invitation, and to her intense surprise found herself 
placed next to the mysterious gentleman at supper. 
That evening he escorted her home, and when he re- 
turned his father, who had been equally impressed with 
the beauty and charm of their new guest said: 

"George, I 'd like you to marry that young lady." 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 
"I 'm going to," replied Pop, and with the same im- 
petuosity and passionate intensity which character- 
ized everything he did in his life he lost no time in his 
courtship. In the supreme awakening of a great love 
all petty convention and all obstacles melted away, and 
these two stood face to face with a devotion as deep 
and true as life itself. 

There was much opposition to this match on the 
part of her family. Her father had heen lost at sea 
many years before, and her brothers, who were all 
older than she, opposed it vigorously because this pre- 
sumptuous young upstart was an artist, and to marry 
an artist well, one might as weU marry a vagabond 
or a tramp and be done with it. Inness was forbidden 
the house. But that was of small consequence, as they 
were married a few weeks later, and throughout the 
forty-odd years of their life together the love that had 
so adventurously brought them together led them 
through the storms of life, sustaining them through 
evil days and good, growing deeper and more beauti- 
ful with each experience and each added year. The 
date of their marriage was 1850. She was seventeen, 
and he twenty-five. 

Ogden Haggerty now proposed to my father to go 
abroad to study, defraying all the expenses, and soon 
after their marriage my mother and father sailed on 
their first ocean voyage. Father's health had teen 

4 



EARLY INFLUENCES 

very poor, and the doctors recommended a long sea- 
voyage; so they went on a sailing-vessel. The jour- 
ney took many weeks, and mother was the only 
woman on board. Not being a very good sailor, she 
was ill most of the way, and when they carried her up 
on deck as the ship was entering the Mediterranean, 
she said it seemed as though she had come out of a 
frightful dream and was entering paradise. 

They stayed in Italy for two years. Father studied 
and painted eagerly, searching and studying the mas- 
ters with an intensity and an eagerness which almost 
consumed him. While in Florence their first child, 
Elizabeth, was born. In 1852 they returned to this 
country, where another daughter was born, whom they 
named Rosa Bonheur, after the painter whom my 
father admired. In 1854 they crossed the ocean 
again, this time going to Paris, where they took up 
their residence in the Latin Quarter. 

After the limited opportunities that my father had 
had in America these two trips to the art centers of 
the world, Italy and France, were a revelation, and of 
untold benefit to him. He came into immediate and 
close touch with the masters of the world through 
their works. It was at this time the Barbison school, 
having emerged victorious from the revolution of art 
and its threadbare traditions, was making itself felt in 
France, and my father came under its influence. To 

37 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

say that he was directly influenced by any one of the 
men of 1830 would not be true, but he was undoubt- 
edly deeply impressed by all of them. He studied 
their methods and technic with great interest and 
culled the best from each. But the point that I want 
to make is that the genius expressed in my father's 
pictures came from within, as direct inspiration, as 
must the work of all true genius, and whatever influ- 
ence there was in his art life served onlj r to awaken his 
own dormant emotions, which brought forth an ex- 
pression entirely individualized. I honestly believe 
that my father thought that he could surpass any artist 
that ever lived. He has been accused of conceit, but 
was it really that in the common acceptance of the 
word? For, after all, he was a relentless critic of his 
own work. Was it not rather that high form of con- 
ceit, or lofty conviction, that he was called to a mighty 
destiny which he was in honor bound to fulfil? Was 
it not that sense of duty which some one has so beau- 
tifully expressed: 

Our wishes, it is said, do measure just 
Our capabilities. Who with his might 
Aspires unto the mountain's upper height, 
Holds in that aspiration a great trust 
To be fulfilled, a warrant that he must 
Not disregard, a strength to reach the height 
To which his hopes have taken flight. 

What influence these immortal men of France and 



EARLY INFLUENCES 

England may or may not have had, they opened up 
new fields of vision and new avenues of thought. 
They took him out of the narrow confines of the Hud- 
son River school, and placed him in the rarer atmos- 
phere of the masters of the world. That indomitable 
spirit which burst through the bonds of commercial 
life into which my father's life seemed destined caused 
him to break away from the beaten track and blaze his 
own trail of light. He sought ever to interpret nature 
in its highest sense. Art with him was life itself; it 
was his religion. There was nothing in his life apart 
from it, and that supreme aspiration colored every- 
thing in his whole existence and gave his life an ex- 
quisite tone. It was the destiny for which he was cre- 
ated, and that destiny was never for the fraction of a 
moment lost sight of. It was the impulse that knows 
no denial. 

Art was with him the expression of the inner life of 
the spirit. He said: 

"The consciousness of immortality is wrapped up in 
all the experiences of my life, and this to me is the end 
of the argument. Man's unhappiness arises from dis- 
obedience to the monitions within him. The principles" 
that underlie art are spiritual principles the principle 
of unity and the principle of harmony. 

"Christ never uttered a word that forbade the creat- 
ing or the enjoying of sensuous form. The funda- 

29 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

mental necessity of the artist's life is the cultivation of 
his moral powers, and the loss of those powers is th< 
loss of artistic power. The efforts of the Catholic 
Church to excite the imagination of worshipers are 
admirable, because the imagination is the life of the 
soul. ' Art is an essence as subtle as the humanity oi 
God, and, like it, is personal only to love a strangei 
to the worldly minded, a myth to the mere intellect. I 
would not give a fig for art ideas except as they repre- 
sent what I, in common with all men, need most the 
good of our practice in the art of life. Rivers, 
streams, the rippling brook, hillsides, sky, and clouds, 
all things that we see, will convey the sentiment of the 
highest art if we are in the love of God and the desire 
of truth." 

It is difficult to say which of all the men of Barbison 
ranked first in my father's estimation, for he said: 

"As landscape-painters I consider Rousseau, Dau~ 
bigny, and Corot among the very best. Daubigny 
particularly and Corot have mastered the relation of 
things in nature one to another, and have obtained the 
greatest works, representations more or less nearly 
perfect, though in their day the science underlying 
impression was not fully known. The advance al- 
ready made is that science, united to the knowledge of 
the principles underlying the attempt made by those 
artists, will, we may hope, soon bring the art of land- 

SO 



EARLY INFLUENCES 

scape-painting to perfection. Rousseau was perhaps 
the greatest French landscape-painter, but I have 
seen in this country some of the smaller things of 
Corot which appeared to me to be truly and thor- 
oughly spontaneous representations of nature, al- 
though weak in their key of color, as Corot always is. 
But his idea was a pure one and he had long been a 
hard student. Daubigny also had a pure idea, and so 
had Rousseau. There was no affectation in these 
men, there were no tricks of color. But the trouble 
with Rousseau was that he has too much detail. He *s 
little, he's twopenny. He's little with detail, and 
that takes away from his artistic worth." 

My father was not over-enthusiastic about Corot, 
but thought he was a poet and a tonist. The man, I 
believe, who had the greatest influence on him 
was the English artist Constable, about whom he 
was very enthusiastic. I believe more of Constable 
shows in Inness's works than any of the French 
school. 

He was a great admirer of Turner, but on one occa- 
sion when he attended an exhibition in a house in 
Fourteenth Street, New York, which formed the nu- 
cleus of the Metropolitan Museum, he saw the famous 
"Slave Ship" by Turner. My father looked at it, and 
with a gesture of disgust said: 

"That is the most infernal piece of claptrap ever 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

painted. There is nothing in it. It has as much to do 
with human affections and thought as a ghost. It is 
not even a bouquet of color. The color is harsh, dis- 
agreeable, and discordant," 

During this sojourn of my parents in Paris, I was 
born, and from that day it was decreed that I, too, 
should be a painter. In that year, 1854, we returned 
to America and located in Brooklyn, father taking a 
studio in New York and thus launching himself on his 
American career. 

As I have already said in a previous chapter, in my 
father's boyhood he did not have to contend with finan- 
cial difficulties, and the greatest obstacle in his way 
was the opposition of his family. Now, added to that 
opposition, which was by no means limited to his fam- 
ily, came financial troubles. The years were lean, 
and there was a growing family to support. At that 
time he was producing some of the pictures that have 
brought many thousands of dollars in recent sales in 
New York ; but how glad he would have been to receive 
even one hundred then, in fact, to have sold them at all ! 
For several years he struggled for recognition, but 
New York still held to the old school and would have 
none of him; so we moved to Boston, where, again 
through the help of Ogden Haggerty, Williams & 
Everett, prominent picture-dealers, took over the 
management of his pictures. We thea took up our 

34 



EARLY INFLUENCES 

residence in Medfield, a suburb of Boston, and times 
became better. 

After our return to America a third daughter was 
born, whom they called Louise, and two years later 
my sister Helen was born, who became the wife of J. 
Scott Hartley, the sculptor. The sixth child, a boy, 
died in infancy. 



CHAPTER III 

MEDFIELD PERIOD 

THE Medfield period lasted from 1859 to 
1864. From the point of view of artistic 
achievements it was one of great impor- 
tance in my father's life. The ideas which he had 
ahsorbed were now beginning to show in his work, and 
his own individual style was developing. In other 
words George Inness was beginning to be George 
Iiiness. 

I do not remember how we got to Medfield, but I 
remember smelling wild flowers and fields for the first 
time. I remember also a quarrel with my sister Rose 
in which I came out victor* My father took me to the 
wood-shed and told me that any man who would strike 
a woman ought to be thrashed, and that he was going 
to whip me; and he did. He picked up a little twig, 
it looked like the trunk of a tree, and switched me 
well. I howled, and lay on the floor crying that he had 
hurt me; when I looked up I saw dear old Pop, sitting 
on a saw-horse crying, too. I could not understand. 
I am wiser now. 

His tenderness and love for his family were beauti* 

36 



MEDFIELD PERIOD 

ful. He sought to understand his children and to en- 
ter into our games and pleasures, and he would spend 
hours making kites and jackstraws for us. Again he 
would be in a different world, an entirely different 
man, and I would not know my father. As I review 
my childhood, a little incident flashes back to me of his 
tenderness. Father was very fond of roast pig, and I 
think he had been reading Charles Lamb. He would 
try anything he read about; when he read "The Count 
of Monte Christo" he tried hashish. I am glad to 
say he did not follow up the practice. But to the pig ! 
Pop gave me a dollar to buy the runt from a farmer 
near by. To possess a runt had been my ambition, 
and for one dollar the farmer said he would give me 
one. That is pretty cheap for a pig. A runt is the 
smallest pig in a litter, but in my eyes this fellow was 
the finest little white pet in the world. I brought the 
little squealer home, and built a pen for him only be- 
cause my mother would not let me have him for a bed- 
fellow. I taught him to drink milk by letting him 
suck my finger as the farmer had shown me, and I 
washed him every day, and tucked him in a straw bed 
at night. He got so he would follow me like a dog, 
and I loved that pig; but I got chills and fever, and it 
was decreed that I should go to my aunt's in Tenafly, 
New Jersey, for a change. 

After I had shivered my poor little body almost to 

39 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

pieces and consumed quarts of "Coligog," I came 
home cured. After the usual family embraces were 
over, I hurried to the abode of my pet and found it 
deserted. I rushed to my father and cried : 

"Oh, Pop, my runt is gone P* 

Pop looked very shy and embarrassed, then said: 

"Why, Georgie, he became a nuisance. We could 
not keep him in his pen, I put him back a dozen 
times, and then we had to eat him/ 5 

"Oh, why, why, did you eat my pig? Could n't you 
have nailed another slat on his pen?" I cried, and, 
leaving the room broken-hearted, went up in the attic, 
where I always took refuge when in trouble. 

Before long I heard father trudging up-stairs. He 
called me to him and said : "You poor little chap ! Of 
course I should have nailed another slat on his pen, but 
I never thought of it. Dry your eyes and come 
down-stairs, and I will get you a dog, and I promise 
you I will not eat him." 

I was getting to be what my mother called a big 
boy, and father began to realize that I might be useful, 
so he showed me how to wash his brushes. I was a 
proud boy that day, but later sometimes felt that edu- 
cation has its drawbacks. 

Then Mark Fisher came, Mark Fisher was a 
young fellow father found in a carriage-painter's shop 
in Boston. Mark was clever, and drew things* so 

40 



MEDFIELD PERIOD 

father brought him to live with us, and to learn to 
paint pictures. Mark did learn, and later became well 
known in England as an artist. 

The coming of Mark was an event in my life, as it 
gave me more leisure to drill and march with our com- 
pany, which was preparing for the war. You see, 
Mark washed the brushes. Speaking of the war, my 
father had some wooden guns made for our company, 
and I was to be captain; but discretion is the better 
part of valor, and I took second place and became a 
private, deferring to Foster Bush, our minister's son, 
who later became a distinguished physician of Boston. 
He was bigger than I. I always looked up to Mark 
Fisher as a great man. He used to draw funny pic- 
tures much better than father could. Mark had tend- 
encies that might have led him to the drama. One 
night he produced a play in our dining-room. He 
hung a sheet across one end of the room, and invited 
the neighbors in to see him, Pop, and Mama play 
"Bombastes Furioso." 

My father was the King, of course, Mark was Bom- 
bastes* and mama was Distaff ena. I think an artist 
by name of Cass was Fusbos. My father was dressed 
in gorgeous clothes, and had a gold crown on his head. 
He was very fat. I saw him tie a pillow over his stom- 
ach before he put on his coat, which was made of a 
piece of carpet and some gold paper. Mark had a 

41 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

sword with a blade about a foot broad, and when he 
stuck it "clean through" Pop, I let out a yell that 
nearly broke up the entire theater party. 

A sport that my father loved was skating and we 
had many parties on the Charles River in winter. 
When Pop skated he wore a shawl in fact, nearly all 
men wore shawls in those days and with his long, 
black hair and plaid shawl floating in the breeze, he cut 
a figure that in my young eyes was the quintessence of 
grace. 

On our place in Medfield there was an old barn 
which was converted into a studio. My father's stu- 
dios were nearly always old barns ; there was none of 
the poseur or dilettante about him. He was per- 
fectly content with one chair, an easel, and his tubes 
of paint He never had such things as attractive 
rugs or broken plates or bits of rags and silk about his 
place. He never could do clever tricks with his pen- 
cil to amuse, and never was attracted by the so-called 
artistic room with Oriental hangings, and used to ridi- 
cule old plates and cups and saucers and canopied di- 
vans and Japanese umbrellas* There was nothing 
luxurious about his studio; it was his workroom, and 
was simplicity almost to bareness, 

In this old Medfield barn some of father's most rep- 
resentative pictures were painted; there he painted 
many of the magnificent sunsets and elms and those 

42 



MEDFIELD PERIOD 

dramatic storms which characterize George Inness. 
The original sketch of one of the finest examples of 
his work was done there. It was called "Medfield 
Meadows," and later was a wedding present from him 
to my wife and me. 

Those were wonderful years for me* I used to sit 
there in his studio for hours at a time watching him 
paint, pictures now, not wash-tuhs, while I, with a 
white canvas before me, a large brush, and a pail of 
; water, imitated his movements. 

When he painted he put all the force of his 
nature into it Full of vim and vigor, he was like a 
dynamo. It was punch here and dab there. He was 
indefatigable. He was a totally different man in his 
studio from what he was out of doors. Out of doors 
he was quiet, rational, and absorbed. I have seen him 
sit in the same spot every day for a week or more 
studying carefully and minutely the contours of trees 
and the composition of the clouds and grass, drawing 
very carefully with painstaking exactness. But in his 
studio he was like a madman* He seldom painted di- 
rect from nature. He would study for days, then with 
a sudden inspiration would go at a canvas with the 
most dynamic energy, creating the composition from 
his own brain, but with so thorough an underlying 
knowledge of nature that the key-note of his land- 
scapes was always truth and sincerity and absolute 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

fidelity to nature. It was his honesty and simplicity 
that made him great. 

"Never put anything on your canvas that is n't of 
use/' he would say; "never use a detail unless it means 
something." He would start a marine or shipwreck, 
and with a gesture of impatience would say, "Oh, con- 
found it! that does n't look like water," and with a few 
swift strokes would put in some grass and trees, and 
more than likely, before he got through, it would be a 
snow-scene. 

It was in the old barn studio that my father painted 
a large canvas called "The Sign of Promise." It 
makes me shudder to think how near this canvas came 
to being lost to the world. Some of it was, but, owing 
to the peculiar tendency to repaint canvases, some of 
the original, with more added, has been immortalized 
under the name of "Peace and Plenty/* It now 
hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New 
York. It was a wheat-field, as I remember it, with a 
rainbow in the sky. Well, this canvas, "The Sign of 
Promise," got Pop and me into a good deal of trouble 
one day, especially Pop. I was working in a little 
garden where I had planted beans, was just digging 
the beans up to see if they were growing, when I 
heard the most terrible, muffled noise coming from the 
studio that sounded like "George"; but the voice was 
so strange and weird that I was frightened, and ran 

46 



MEDFIELD PERIOD 

into the house, and hid my face in the folds of my 
grandmother's apron. My mother was out at the 
time. I told between my sobs that there was some- 
thing awful in the studio. While grandmother was 
trying to get her wits together, Pop appeared at the 
kitchen door, calling for me. 

Grandmother said : 

"Oh, George, don't punish him!" said my grand- 
mother. "He 's so frightened." 

Father answered: 

"I shall not punish him, but I want to show him 
what his cowardice has caused me." When I looked 
up, there stood my father, his face streaked with color. 
We went hand in hand to the studio ; there on the floor, 
face down, lay "The Sign of Promise." Pop ex- 
plained to me that if I had not been such a little cow- 
ard I could have removed the chair that, as he tried 
to kick it out of the way, had caused him to fall with 
his canvas, his face down, and into the palette, which 
he had no time to remove from his thumb. As he 
crawled from under the canvas a great deal of "The 
Sign of Promise" had come off on Pop's clothes. 
Not being able to dispose of this canvas, which has 
since become famous, in any other way, it was given 
in part payment for a house in New Jersey. I fancy 
that "Peace and Plenty" would now bring a good 
many houses like that one in New Jersey. 

47 



CHAPTER IV 

MEDFIELD PEEIOD II 

p "\ HE Medfield days were war-times ; the Civil 
War had just begun. My father was aU 
enthusiasm. He was not fit for service, as 
he was not strong. I remember our fears when he 
went to be examined for enlistment, and the joy with 
which we received the news that he did not pass. But 
he worked hard in other ways. He raised money and 
men; he made speeches in front of the meeting-house 
nearly every night, and old Tom Barney, who kept the 
village store, and whom I met fifteen years later, told 
me my father went to Boston, borrowed one hundred 
dollars from an art dealer, rushed back to Medfield, 
and said: "Tom, they've MEed all our men. Take 
this, and send the poor fellows stockings/* Tom 
added: "I done it conscientious; but I Ve always won- 
dered how they wore 'em/* 

Pop was a good fellow with the boys who hung 
around the village store and used to joke with them* 
Tom Barney was a quaint character, and in after years 
I spent many an hour listening to him as he drawled 

48 



MEDFIELD PERIOD II 

out "the queer things your father done and the yarns 
he used to tell/' This was a pet story: 

"George Inness was the smartest fellow that ever 
come to these parts; he was forever getting off some- 
thin 5 on the boys, and he got one off on me oncet. You 
see, your father come down to the store one winter 
night when he knowed all the boys would be there, 
squirtin' terbacca juice into the sand-box under the 
store stove, and he says, "Tom, I had a dream last 
night that 's worried me all day ; and I 'd 'a' come down 
sooner if I had n't been so busy/ Of course he waited 
till he knowed all the boys 'u'd be around the stove. 
'Well/ he says, 'I dreamed I died and I found myself 
standing in front of two roads. One was a great 
broad road, and t' other was nothin' much more 'n a 
cow-path. Well/ he says, 'I knowed where they went 
to, 'cause I remember mother used to tell me to take 
the crooked road, which led to heaven, for the beautiful 
straight road run straight into t' other place. Well/ 
says your father, 'I took the little crooked road, and 
after a while, after I was all het up and awful tired, 
for the road was full of stones and sticks and things, I 
come to a beautiful gate. Tom/ he says, 'it was all 
stuck around with jewels and gold, and the light that 
came from it just blinded me. I knowed/ said he, 'it 
was the gate of heaven, but I was scared to knock, 
'cause I thought maybe they would n't let me in. But 

51 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

after a spell/ says he, 'I got my courage up aii 
knocked at the door. Pretty soon/ he says, 'a feller 
come to the gate and opened it just a crack-like, and 
he says, "Who he you?" Tom/ says your father, 'it 
was Saint Peter. I knowed him 'cause he carried % 
big key ; the old masters in Europe always painted him 
with a big key in his hand* Well, St. Peter says/ says 
he, * "Who be you?" and I says, "George Inness." He 
says, "Don't know yer. Where 'd yer come from, and 
what *s yer trade?" I says, "I come from Medfield, 
Massachusetts, and I'm an artist." Tom, when I 
said that/ says your father, 'Saint Peter give a jump 
and said, "Mercy 1 What you a-doin' here? We 
dpn't let no artists in here; you take the other road 
down the hill. You '11 find plenty of your kind down 
there." I says/ says he, * "O Saint Peter, don't send 
me down there 1 I know where it leads to, my 
mother told me, and I don't like artists." "Oh, yer 
don't," says Saint Peter. "Be yer a Christian?" 
Well, Tom/ says your father, 'that was a blow that 
floored me. I could n't say I was a Christian, and I 
dares n't say I were n't; so I says, "Not as they count 
a Christian in Medfield ; I don't belong to no church." * 
At that, so your father says, Saint Peter shet the gate 
in his face. ' Well' he goes on, 'I set on a stone outside 



MEDFIELD PERIOD II 

among the artists ; so I plucked up my courage, and 
knocked on the gate again, and when Saint Peter 
come once more, I said, "I just knocked again to say 
I know a Christian." "You do?" says he. "Well, 
do tell! What's his name and where 's he from?" 
"His name," says I, "is Tom Barney." "Don't 
know no such Christian," says Saint Peter. "You 
don't?" says your father, "why he 's the pillar of the 
Baptist Church in Medfield." "Oh, yes," says Saint 
Peter, "I recollect him now. He's 'deacon in the 
Baptist Church, and, let me see, he keeps a grocery 
store, don't he? Yes, he's a Christian all right. 
So you know Tom Barney, pillar of the Baptist 
Church, do you? Say, have you knowed him long? 
About three years, you say? Do you trade to his 
store? Yer have, have yer? Well, in them three 
years you've been tradin' with Tom Barney, the 
pillar of the Baptist Church, did you ever suspect 
that is, did you ever think that maybe, sometimes, 
there was a leetle too much sand in the sugar?" 
"Oh, no," says your father, "I never suspected any 
such thing." "Well," says Saint Peter, "if you Ve 
traded with Tom Barney, pillar of the Baptist Church 
of Medfield for three years, and are such a' innocent 
damned fool as not to know Tom was cheating you 
right along, come right in. You can't do no harm!" ' 
"Of course," said Tom, "your father was only fool- 

53 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

ing, and only said it to make the boys laugh; but I 
never done it no more." 

In Medfield father worked a great deal out of doors, 
studying nature, and often when I was not at school we 
tramped long distances with our packs on our backs 
and a lunch in our pockets. I had a sketch-book, and 
used to draw trees and fences, while father painted 
some of the pictures that are to-day attracting so 
much attention. Although not more than nine years 
of age I had wisdom enough to examine him before we 
started out, for I had learned by sad experience and 
weary little legs that my parent was absent-minded, 
and frequently got a mile from home before he would 
discover that he had no paint-rags or was out of yellow 
ochre; then I would have to tramp home for them. 

He was so absent-minded that it was positively dan- 
gerous for him to go out alone. He was very deep 
that is, in another world. One could not always place 
him. * To jump ahead of my story, I remember on 
many occasions when we lived in Montclair and my 
children were little tots, they would come in and tell 
me that they had met their grandfather on the street, 
and hailed him, after the manner of children, "Hello, 
Grandfather!" and grandfather would say: "Ah, 
hello, little girl! Whose child are you, George's or 
Helen's?" 

And he sometimes did not know his own children. 

54 



MEDFIELD PERIOD II 

He went over to Brooklyn one day to see his sister. 
He had just returned from Europe, and upon inquiry 
as to how many children he had, he replied: 

"I don't know. Lizzie will be here soon; she 
knows." 

On one of Pop's trips to Boston mother asked him 
to buy a pair of shoes for one of the children, and gave 
him explicit instructions. When he returned, instead 
of bringing the shoes, he had sent home a case of shoes, 
of all sizes and colors, for which he had exchanged a 
picture. He explained to my mother that the chil- 
dren would grow into them. Another time when she 
asked him to buy her a few earthenware pie-plates 
he sent home a hogsheadful. 

The years in Medfield were lean financially. Pic- 
tures were not selling fast or steadily, and when they 
did, they brought very little. Although father had 
more success in Massachusetts than in New York, our 
lives were not exactly pampered by the luxuries that 
generally flow from a full purse, and I fancy that the 
flour in the barrel was pretty low at times. How- 
ever, my father was happy in the profession that he 
loved and the wife whom he adored. My mother was 
a very beautiful woman, and with it all displayed a 
gentleness and wisdom that had a wonderful influence 
on my father's life. He was high-strung, nervous, 
reckless, and generous to a fault. I believe he would 

55 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

have given the coat on his back to help any one in dis- 
tress. 

Sometimes I have seen my mother, with her beauti- 
ful Grecian face, hovering over a kitchen stove; but 
generally we had a hired girl. Money, with an artist, 
is like fits; it comes occasionally, and when it conies, 
comes with a jolt that sets a reckless man on a steel- 
trust pinnacle. One day while in Boston my father 
got the jolt, and immediately repaired to a jewelry- 
shop. I do not know how much he got for the pic- 
tures, but I do know that he brought home to the beau- 
tiful mother of his children a diamond necklace. He 
clasped it around my mother's neck. 

"O George," she exclaimed, "how beautiful! O my 
dear, the wish of my life has been to possess a diamond 
necklace." Everything was happiness that evening, 
and to celebrate the great occasion the children were 
allowed to sit up later than usual. 

A few days after this my father said: 

"Lizzie, why don't you wear your necklace? I 
have n't seen it around your neck since the night I 
brought it to you." 

My mother replied : 

"Why, how would I look with a diamond necklace 
and this calico gown? It would be out of place. 
Some day before long, when our ship comes in, you 
will get me a velvet gown, and we will go to New 

56 



MEDFIELD PERIOD II 

York and to the reception at the .Academy of Design, 
and I can wear the necklace and show people how 
proud I can be as the wife of the great genius." 

But father was not satisfied. He insisted that she 
was the most beautiful woman God had ever made, 
and he wanted to see how her beautiful neck would 
show off a diamond necklace. Then mother put her 
arms about his neck and said: 

"Dear husband, I have not got the necklace." 
"Not got the necklace! What in the world has be- 
come of it?" 

"You see, dear, I went to Boston the next day, and 
the jeweler gave me the money you paid for it, and I 
put it in the bank." 

My father clasped her in his arms and sobbed: 
"You are the best little wife a man ever had." 



CHAPTER V 

THE EAGLESWOOD PERIOD 

IF the Medfield days were deeply significant of 
my father's art development, the next stage of 
his life, which I might term the Eagleswood 
period, was more significant in spiritual unfolding. 
Father had been persuaded by Marcus Spring to leave 
Massachusetts and go to Eagleswood, New Jersey, a 
suburb of Perth Amboy, where Spring built him a 
house, taking "Peace and Plenty" in part payment. 
A short time before this the Baptist religion had 
gone the way of all others, and he was again adrift ; but 
at last he thought he had found what he wanted: he 
would go back to his mother's church. She was a 
Methodist and a good woman, so he joined the ranks 
of the Methodists, and was happy for a while. One 
Sunday he took me to. church. It was a very hot day, 
and I do not remember what the sermon was about, 
but there were lots of damns and hells in it, mixed up 
with brimstone and fire. I looked over at Pop. He 
was agitated, and the perspiration was streaming from 
his face. He stood it as long as he could, then, taking 
me by the hand, said: 

58 








Wife of George Inness 



George Inness, 1862 





George Innoss, 1SG2 George Inness, Jr., 1862 

SOME FAMILY PORTRAITS 



THE EAGLESWOOD PERIOD 

"Come, Georgie, let 's get out of here. We made a 
mistake, and got into hell." 

Fortunately for my father, William Page, the por- 
trait-painter, a one-time president of the Academy of 
Design, was living at Eagleswood when we moved 
there. They hecame warm friends, and Page brought 
to my father the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. 
This philosophy came at the time of his life when he 
most needed something to lift him out of himself and 
the limited doctrines of orthodox creeds. He threw 
himself into its teachings with all the fire and enthu- 
siasm of his nature, and although he did not adhere 
strictly to its tenets, it led to other metaphysical re- 
search, and he at last truly found that form of expres- 
sion for which he had searched throughout his life 
the consciousness of God in his soul manifested in 
every experience of his life. 

During the latter part of his life he wrote con- 
stantly on these subjects, though few things were pub- 
lished. He was full of theories of art, religion and 
ethics, and would talk theory and preach theory to all 
who would listen to him. It made no difference 
whether they agreed with him or even understood; he 
kept right on talking theory. I have seen him pin a 
man to a chair and pound his ideas into him for hours 
at a time until he and his listener were both exhausted. 
One summer when my father and mother were visiting 

61 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

me at St. Andrews, New Brunswick, they met Sir 
William Van Home, a most charming and cultivated 
Canadian gentleman. One evening after dinner my 
father cornered Sir William, and for hours poured 
into him his theories of Swedenborg, Henry George, 
the single tax, and. paint, pounding each word in. 
with a jab of his forefinger, until the poor fellow, in 
utter desperation, tore himself away and retired. The 
next morning when Sir William went out on the 
piazza he found father in the same chair and in the 
same attitude as when he had left him. Catching 
sight of Van Horne, father picked up the thread of 
discourse where he had left off the night before, and 
went on with his lecture. Sir William confided to me 
that he wondered if my father had kept it up all night, 
not knowing that he had gone to bed. 

The single tax was a theme that interested my 
father very much. It was one of his pet theories. In 
telling me the foregoing story, Sir William was re- 
minded of another, a propos of this topic. 

"I entertained at dinner a number of distinguished 
Australians," he said, "among them an eminent pub- 
licist. The single tax excites much ridicule and dis- 
cussion in Australia, and your father, as you know, 
had become an ardent Georgite. The talk at dinner 
turned upon the tax, and the Australian view was 
expounded at length by the distinguished publicist. 

62 



THE EAGLESWOOD PERIOD 

Inness sat silent, his burning, black eyes under his 
black and shaggy fell of hair, fixed upon the orator, 
who talked the more complacently in the conscious- 
ness of so appreciative a listener. When his argu- 
ments were exhausted and the speaker paused, Inness 
shot from his seat, and thrust his forefinger into the 
speaker's face with, 'Did you mean what you said?' 
Then followed the most amazing exhibition of reason- 
ing and logic I have ever witnessed. With a display 
of memory and a grasp of understanding that was 
marvelous to see, Inness brought up every statement 
the great publicist had made, showing his utter clum- 
siness of reasoning, putting his logic to confusion, and 
exposing his falsity of statement. 

"After propounding his theories with a conviction 
that made the audience speechless, your father 
rounded up those giant Australians like so many 
sheep, and literally drove them into the drawing-room. 
I have never seen anything like it," said Sir William. 
"It was amazing the way he silenced that speaker with 
facts. It was too good to be true." 

It was not with any idea of establishing a religion 
for the whole world that he went into theological sub- 
jects; nor did he condemn the old order of things for 
those who found spiritual food in them. It was sim- 
ply to find God in the way that brought satisfaction to 
himself; for in one of his manuscripts he says: 

63 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

No man can possibly know what is good for another; he 
can only enjoy and give of what he enjoys through the con- 
nected ministrations of the human race. Error is in giving 
voice to the states that are not enjoyed. This science is 
bound to be correct. For the word of Good (God) cannot 
be perverted without punishment. "As ye think, so are ye. 35 

It can be only through the awakening perception of scien- 
tific genius firmly grounded in religious conviction that such 
a science for a science it must be, though unlimited can 
become a possibility. Much has been said about a scien- 
tific religion, and many appear to have hoped for it ; but a 
new system of faith can be formed only upon what has pre- 
ceded it, and to be a religious faith it must be in accord with 
the universal bond of human sentiment. Science, even un- 
limited, cannot make a faith any more than it can make a 
soul. Its truths serve only to confirm. A spiritual science 
must be an inspiration from or through the religious mind 
into the scientific mind. 

His liberality of thought is expressed in the fol- 
lowing passage: 

Its forms [of expression] may be various, but from its 
center comes the true light which lighteth every man that 
cometh into the world. 

If we accept the philosophy that man was made in the im- 
age and likeness of God, our hope of attaining an idea of 
God or the infinite cause for which science is searching is not 
only by investigating or classifying material forms, but by 
subjecting such classification to laws or principles inherent 
as the properties or attributes of the reasoning mind* Let 
us endeavor, then, to clothe or illustrate an idea of the mind 
or thought in a form fitted to material comprehension by 
considering such idea as a point or center from which are 

64 



THE EAGLESWOOD PERIOD 

intellectual radiations, in fact, as the reality or truth of a 
center of motion. 

Such a point can be considered only as the creation of 
being itself, which being is in us the affection or touch of life, 
felt as the consciousness of something existing as a substan- 
tial entity, which I appreciate as an idea from myself as an 
active center of thought, yet my idea proceeds from my pe- 
culiar affection of form of life, hidden from my understand- 
ing, partaking of its quality or substance, and from it ra- 
diates my thought, propelled by the extension of my life, 
creating in my ultimate act ideas of sensation or conviction 
of that which is not me, but which confirms me as an individ- 
ual center, or the idea of selfhood. 

There was only one subject that I know of that 
Page and my father disagreed upon; that subject was 
what they called "the middle tone." Now, the middle 
tone was Page's idea. He claimed that the horizon 
should be a middle tone: that is, it should be half-way 
between the lightest light and the greatest dark in the 
picture. Father agreed with him on that point, but 
what they could not agree upon was just what a mid- 
dle tone really was. So Page, to explain more fully, 
took a strip of tin and painted it white at one end and 
black at the other, and then graded in stripes from 
both ends until it reached a gray tone in the middle. 
This he showed to my father and said triumphantly, 
"There 's the true middle tone I" The next day father 
went to Page's studio with a similar strip of tin and 
declared that he had the true middle tone. When they 

67 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

compared the two hues, there was no resemblance be- 
tween them. Then the fight was on, and these two 
gentlemen, after yelling themselves hoarse and saying 
some very uncomplimentary things to each other, 
would break away, and not speak to each other for 
days. Then they would come together again and re- 
sume the argument with renewed vigor. These hos- 
tilities were kept up, off and on for two years, when 
Page built himself a house on Staten Island and 
painted it white, then glazed it down to a middle tone. 
In a few months the sun had faded out the middle 
tone; at which my father declared that there was no 
such thing as a middle tone, anyhow, and that Page 
was a fool. 

While at Eagleswood there were many artists who 
congregated around my father, and he had some 
pupils. Louis C. Tiffany was one, and Carleton 
Wiggins another. 

About this time a syndicate of gentlemen, 
Fletcher Harper, Chauncey Depew, Clarke Bell, 
and others, gave my father a commission to paint 
a series of large pictures, and he chose for subjects 
"Bunyon's Pilgrim's Progress." There were several 
pictures. 

I remember "The Delectable City 5 * and "The Val- 
ley of the Shadow of Death." The latter, I believe, 



THE EAGLESWOOD PERIOD 

is in the Brooklyn Art Museum, and belonged to 
Fletcher Harper. 

One of the canvases was destroyed in the Chicago 
fire, and another, the "Delectable City," was de- 
stroyed or damaged in an accident at the Madison 
Square Garden, 

When the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" was 
exhibited a criticism appeared in one of the papers that 
said the subject was overdone, that Inness had made 
it horrible by painting the rocks to resemble hideous 
forms, reptiles and goblins. My father, when read- 
ing it, said: "Nonsense! I did not paint any such 
things"; but when he saw the picture again, he de- 
clared that they did seem to take such shapes. 

In 1867 we moved from Eagleswood to Brooklyn, 
where several more or less uneventful years were 
passed. My father was painting steadily. Two in- 
cidents stand out as significant. The most important 
was father's election to the Academy of Design in 
1868. In 1853 he had been made an Associate, and it 
took the academy fifteen years to realize that he was 
worthy of full honors. 

The other incident was more in the nature of a 
humorous situation, yet how well it pictures dear old 
Pop! He was very proud of me, not because I was 
clever and smart, because I was not, but just because 

69 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

I was his. In fact, I was very dull in school, and al- 
ways in a grade far beneath me in years and size. I 
attended the Adelphi Academy at the time when Mr. 
Lockwood was the principal He was a very kind 
gentleman, and indulged me because he looked upon 
me as rather lacking, and would let me spend most of 
my time in the studio, where I was a great favorite 
with the drawing-master. I was about fourteen years 
of age when my father found this out, and took me to 
the Polytechnic, and the interview with Dr. Cochran 
was rather amusing. Father hated this sort of thing, 
and would have had my mother take me to the new 
school, but she said it was a man's duty, and he must 
see Dr. Cochran and explain about the studio. Fa- 
ther was very nervous and embarrassed, and, as was 
his custom when embarrassed, he put on an air of 
gruffness to cover up his confusion. 

We were ushered into a little office. After waiting 
a few moments, a dapper little man, emaculately 
groomed, just as if he were out of a bandbox, came in 
and made a stately bow, at which my father arose, and 
in a very rough voice said : 

"Dr. Cochran?" which brought forth another bow 
from the doctor. 

"Well, Doctor Cochran, I Ve brought this boy down 
here to see if you can drive some learning into him. I 
want him to learn to read and write. He 's been up 



THE EAGLESWOOD PERIOD 

at the Adelphi Academy, and hasn't learned any- 
thing. I don't believe he 's a fool exactly, but they Ve 
let him have his own way too much. Been spending 
most of his time in the studio." 

"Ah," said the doctor, "has the young man a bent 
for art?" 

"Yes, I suppose he has." 

"Well, would it not be better to encourage any 
strong tendency in that direction that the young man 
may have?" 

"Ah, I '11 attend to all that when the time comes," 
answered my father in a gruff voice. 

"Ah, then," said the doctor, who was growing im- 
patient with the uncouth manners of his visitor, "may 
I ask if you are in a position which enables you to 
develop his art tendencies?" 

"I am; I am a painter myself." 

"Ah, indeed. I beg your pardon. I did n't under- 
stand. I know most of our artists, but, never having 
met you, may I inquire the name?" 

"My name is Inness." 

"Not George Inness?" 

"Yes, George Inness." 

"The landscape-painter?" 

"Yes," replied my father, "I am a landscape- 
painter." 

At this the whole manner of the doctor changed. 

73 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

His face glowed with interest as he sprang up and 
grasped my father by the hand. 

"Mr. Inness," he said, "I cannot express to you the 
pleasure of this meeting. I have known your work 
for years, and have followed it with most intense in- 
terest. In fact, on several occasions I have prided 
myself on the ability to recognize your work when- 
ever I saw it, and on one occasion I entered into a bet 
with some gentlemen that I could pick out a George 
Inness among a hundred other works. The bet was 
for a dinner, and I won the bet." 

Then my father seemed to turn into another man, 
another being entirely. He forgot all about me and 
his mission; his embarrassment left him. He nailed the 
doctor to a chair, and with many gesticulations drove 
into him his theories of art and religion. The doctor 
sat perfectly still, not uttering a word until my father, 
becoming quite exhausted from his exertions, said: 

'Well, Doctor Cochran, I fear I have taken too 
much of your valuable time. Will you take the boy ?" 

"Go right on, Mr. Inness ; I am intensely interested 
in what you say. It is a revelation to me, and I want 
to say that I never heard a better sermon in my life. 
Of course we will take the boy, and I promise you that 
lie shall have nothing to do with the studio. I am per- 
fectly sure he will find a competent master when the 
proper time comes." 

74 



CHAPTER VI 

FOBEIGN INFLUENCE 

CONCLUDING that foreign subjects would 
be more salable than domestic ones, Wil- 
liams & Everett induced my father to go 
abroad, agreeing to take his pictures at stated sums. 
So in the spring of 1870 we sailed for the Old World, 
landing at Liverpool. 

We stopped in London and Paris only a few days 
on our way to Marseilles, where we embarked for 
Civitavecchia, going from there to Rome. In Rome 
my father took a studio on the Via Sistina said to have 
been once occupied by Claude Lorrain. Our first 
summer in Italy was spent in Tivoli, where father 
made many sketches of the famous olive-groves of 
that village, reputed to be over a thousand years old. 
We spent tw;o summers at Perugia, one at Albano, and 
one at Pieve di Cadore, the birthplace of Titian, whom 
my father thought the greatest colorist that ever lived. 

Pop always had a romantic streak in him, and took 
great pleasure in visiting the birthplaces of famous 
men. He liked to browse around in the old 
places where they lived and painted, and to live 

75 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

over in his imagination the lives of these great masters. 
What a time he would have had, had he lived in the 
time of Titian, and had had a score or two of pupils, as 
those fellows had! I can imagine him, mahlstick in 
hand, directing the building of a picture. He would 
have mapped it* out as a great general does a battle, 
then he would have directed detachments of his army 
of pupils to attack the huge canvas at diif erent points. 
"There, A , slam in a thunder-cloud in the right- 
hand corner; and you, B , rush a battery of light 

down in that middle distance; and C , keep ham- 
mering away at the foreground. Never mind if you 
are out of tone, we '11 get a harmony when we put a 
glaze over the whole thing, and then with a little tick- 
ling up here and there with pigment we will have fin- 
ished the greatest landscape that ever was painted." 
And this is not all imaginary, for that was one of my 
father's pet theories. He thought he could direct any 
man or group of men to paint in this way, and produce 
as great a picture as he could paint himself. At times 
he seemed to be obsessed with the idea that painting a 
picture was purely mechanical, needing only the mas- 
ter brain to direct. But with Pop theory and prac- 
tice were not always one and the same thing, although 
in some instances he did actually put this particular 
theory into practice. I have seen him preach this 
theory by the hour and bring forth the most logical ar- 

76 



FOREIGN INFLUENCE 

guments to prove that he was correct in his deduc- 
tions, then under the fire of inspiration throw theories, 
arguments, and everything to the four winds, and 
paint like mad in exact opposition to the ideas he had 
expressed, finally admitting that, after all, "The fel- 
low who gets the bird is the fellow who holds the gun." 

If any one would criticize my father's works, even 
though he did not know where the next meal or house 
rent was coming from, he would blow out in a passion 
of abuse and lose a sale. On one occasion Marshall 
O. Roberts, a big New York financier, came to his 
studio in Rome. Father had two canvases which he 
held at five thousand dollars each, and which pleased 
Mr. Roberts very much. 

"Mr. Inness," he said, "if I take both of those pic- 
tures, what price will you make me?" 

"Ten thousand dollars," my father replied. 

"Well, Mr. Inness, what is the price of the little 
one on the easel?" 

"Two thousand dollars," answered Pop. 

"Will you take ten thousand dollars for the three?" 

Pop agreed, although the commercial aspect of the 
transaction rankled, and the bargain was made, the 
purchase to be consummated on Mr. Roberta's return 
to Rome from a tour of Egypt. 

The next day a member of the Roberts family came 
to see the pictures. He was very much delighted, 

79 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

and expressed himself as being greatly pleased that 
they at last were to have some real art for their home 
in New York. 

"But/' he said, "the old gentleman is kicking at 
the price he has to pay." 

At this my father burst out: 

"Tell the gentleman he is an ass to talk about my 
prices when he has been paying much larger sums 
for the greatest trash that ever was put on canvas/' 

Evidently the message was delivered to Mr. Rob- 
erts, as requested, and well, he just forgot to stop in. 
Rome on his return from Egypt. 

Father never could learn to be politic. Another 
time when a prospective purchaser criticized some- 
thing in a picture which he was considering, father 
told him not to make an idiot of himself by talking 
of something he was absolutely ignorant of. The 
sale was not made, and father's rent was still due. 

I have to laugh when I recall these incidents, which 
were then so tragic. I remember General Alger said 
tome: 

"Your father was a very violent man, was he not?" 

"My father? Why, no; he was as gentle as a 
lamb." 

"Oh," he replied, "I got a very different opinion of 
him. At one time I found occasion to criticize one 
of his pictures and " 

80 



FOREIGN INFLUENCE 

"Oh/ 5 1 laughed; "I understand." 

And another time when a man who is known to be 
one of the world's richest magnates came to Pop's 
studio, he admired a certain canvas extravagantly and 
asked the price, which was given him as two thou- 
sand dollars. 

The gentleman, after admiring it for some time, 
said: 

"Mr. Inness, I will give you fifteen hundred for it." 

Father went to the easel, removed the canvas, and 
turned it face to the wall. 

"Oh, hold on, Mr. Inness ; I should like to look at 
that picture again." 

"You will have to excuse me," replied father, "I 
am not selling pictures to-day. I am very busy, and 
will bid you good day." 

After our stay in Italy we moved on to France, 
making our headquarters in Paris, where father had 
his studio. He was still painting for Williams & 
Everett. One picture was exhibited at the Salon, 
an Italian subject; but it was "skyed" and attracted 
little attention. The first summer in France was 
spent at Etretat. 

In the latter part of 1872 came the disastrous fire in 
Boston, which forced Williams & Everett to suspend 
payment to my father, and we found ourselves again 
without money. Pop was now compelled to make a 

81 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

hurried trip back to the States, leaving us in Paris 
until he could make some financial arrangement simi- 
lar to the one with Williams & Everett, He cabled 
Williams & Everett to send him money, as the fol- 
lowing letter indicates: 

LIVERPOOL, Feb. 13, 1873 
My Dear Wife: 

I have just received your two letters and hasten to an- 
swer a few lines before leaving for the boat. Do not worry 
about me, as I am well provided for and am all right. I 
presume that you have received the letter I wrote from 
London. 

I shall be quite as well satisfied if the $1,000 is not sent, 
if you have enough, until I can reach Boston, as it will leave 
me free to make other arrangements if desirable. Williams 
will probably be desirous of making overtures to me, and in 
case the money is paid I shall feel delicate in working from 
one party to another. As soon as I reach Boston I will 
find out how things are and telegraph you money. 

Give my love to all and believe me your 

Affectionate husband, 

Fear nothing, 

GEOBGE. 

Satisfactory arrangements were not made with 
Williams & Everett, however, and father entered into 
a business arrangement with Doll & Richards, an- 
other Boston firm. 

Before leaving Paris my mother had given poor old 
Pop very explicit directions as to his appearance, and 
told him that she had packed his dress clothes in the 

82 



FOREIGN INFLUENCE 

bottom of his trunk. She further admonished him to 
take them out immediately upon his arrival in Boston, 
and have them pressed, as he would very probably be 
invited out. 

"Now remember, dear, take them out. Don't for- 
get. And remember to put on a clean shirt and col- 
lar. You know you are very careless, and if I am not 
there to look after you I don't know what will hap- 
pen/' 

He promised faithfully to carry out these instruc- 
tions, and to make quite as much of a dandy of him- 
self as when he was courting her. 

Some months later Mr. Maynard of Boston told 
me of a dinner which he gave Pop soon after he ar- 
rived in Boston. 

"The dinner," he said, "was a large one, and I had 
invited the elite to meet our greatest artist, George 
Iimess, who had just returned from Europe. The 
guests arrived, and dinner was announced, but the 
guest of honor had not come. We waited, and I be- 
came very nervous. The steward was growing very 
impatient, the dinner was getting cold, and I was al- 
most beside myself. Finally I had to take my guests 
to the dining-room. We all sat rather glum; oc- 
casionally one would tell a story of some eccentric 
fellow he had known, and as the soup and then the 
fish was served, we told some more, and after the en- 

85 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

tree and the roast had gone, of tales of accident and 
death ; when suddenly the doors flew open, and there 
stood our guest, George Inness. He was quite out 
of breath and exclaimed: 

" C I beg your pardon, Maynard. I am late, I fear; 
but the fact is I forgot all about the dinner. But 
never mind; I '11 join in right here. No, thank you; 
nothing, please. I got my dinner at a little restau- 
rant before I remembered. 1 11 just have some des- 
sert/ His hair was disheveled, and the little pea- 
jacket that he was wearing was stained with spots of 
paint; but he began to talk, and he talked and talked 
as never man talked before. Of color, God, tone, the 
triumph of the mind, and of Swedenborg, and when 
the party finally broke up, every guest was in a state 
of delight. No matter whether we followed him or 
not, he was most entertaining. His gestures, which 
at times threatened to play havoc with the china, were 
eloquent. The dinner was a great success, and I 
would not have missed it or had it different for the 
greatest picture he could paint." 

We joined him soon after this in Boston. When 
father signed the agreement with the firm of Doll & 
Richards, he did so without reading it, and if he had, I 
doubt if he would have understood what it meant, with 
its whereases, parties of the first part, parties of the 
second part, to wits, and to have and to holds, so help 

86 



FOREIGN INFLUENCE 

me Gods, etc, ; but the gist of the agreement was that 
Doll & Richards should control all of Inness's works, 
and, if I remember right, all of his sketches, tools, 
and everything that was his, for which they were to 
guaranty him a certain sum per month. Things went 
well for a few months, and then payments stopped. 

I happened to be present when Doll came to the 
studio and told father that he could sell nothing, and 
therefore could give him no more money; and asked 
him if he could not sell something himself. To which 
father replied that, if he could, he certainly would not 
be paying the firm of Doll & Richards to do it for him. 
Things were pretty bad, and one day Mr. Maynard 
came to Pop with the story that Doll had said to him 
that he had the knife in Inness and could twist it at 
any time, and advised father to get everything away 
from the firm as soon as possible. We were all ex- 
cited. Father went to his old friends, Williams & 
Everett, who agreed to give him four thousand dollars 
and take certain canvases as security, among them 
"The Barberini Pines," which was then in our studio, 
and which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of 
Art. Then he went to New York to see what ar- 
rangements could be made with John Snedecor, his old 
New York dealer. 

Meanwhile Mr. Maynard advised me to get the 
large picture away as soon as possible, so Williams & 

871 



Everett sent a man around to the studio that evening, 
and he and I carried the big canvas down Washing- 
ton Street to Williams & Everett's store. While I 
was gone, Doll, having discovered that my father had 
gone to New York with four thousand dollars from 
Williams & Everett, hurried around to the studio and 
broke in the door. When he found the big picture 
gone, he rushed off to Maynard and declared that 
George Inness was an absconder and a thief and that 
he would have him locked up. Then the chase began, 
and Doll caught him at my uncle's home in Brooklyn. 
Doll was armed with a warrant, and threatened to 
lock him up before night if he did not hand over the 
four thousand dollars. 

Poor old Pop would probably have given it to him 
in his fright had not my uncle found a magistrate to 
accept his bond. Then "The Barberini Pines," for 
safe-keeping, was sent to Snedecor's in New York, 
but Doll got scent of it, and placed an attachment 
on it. 

I then went to a lawyer in Boston with the Doll 
agreement. The attorney said it would not hold. 
No man could deed away his life. That had been 
proved in Venice years ago. The case was finally 
settled out of court, and Doll & Richards got "The 
Barberini Pines." 

My father did not return to Boston. He deter- 



FOREIGN INFLUENCE 

mined to try the New York field once more, and I 
stayed in Boston to close up the business, joining hioa 
later. 

"The Barberini Pines'* was one of those pictures 
painted according to the theory I have described. It 
was done by J. A. S. Monks, me, and Pop. I put 
Jack first and then bring in myself because Pop 
painted on it last. But I doubt if Jack could find the 
part he painted; as for my part, I give up all claim to 
having helped the master. Jack Monks was a pupil 
of my father while we were in Boston, and we three 
worked together in the studio over the Boylston Bank 
on Washington Street. Jack is now a celebrated 
painter of Boston. 

The Boston "Transcript" some years ago published 
the following interview with Jack Monks: 

Mr. Monks* acquaintance with the master began in a way 
that he is naturally and honestly proud to recall. Inness 
had dropped into the studio of George N. Cass and his eye 
had fallen upon the realistic study of a willow tree. 

"Who painted that?" he demanded in his brusk manner. 

"A pupil of mine, a young beginner named Monks/' re- 
plied Cass* 

"Tell him to come over and see me." 

(A. few days later young Monks presented himself at the 
new studio of Inness. His first reception at interrupting the 
eccentric painter at his work was somewhat disconcerting, 
but as soon as it was explained that he was the painter of 
the willow tree at Cass's, the great man's manner instantly 

81 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

changed; he begged the young man to move in at once and 
bring over all of his things, and when this was done requested 
him to place his easel in the same room, to help himself to 
materials, overhaul the sketches, and in all ways to treat 
the premises as his own. This intimate companionship lasted 
throughout Inness's residence in Boston, including a paint- 
ing campaign in the White Mountains, and was renewed 
later when both artists were in New York City. 

Mr. Monks' affectionate reverence for his great master is 
unbounded, but he admits that his advice and teaching were 
not seldom bewildering. It was as difficult for the younger 
man to follow the elder's instructions as to model any par- 
ticular methods upon so erratic and many-sided a style. One 
day Inness would insist that the foundation or keynote of 
every landscape should be black; another day it would be 
red that he believed to be the true basis. Having had the 
advantage of no technical or academic instruction he was 
continually sounding about and feeling his way for himself 
through intense ratiocination on art and ceaseless studies of 
nature. He often lamented this lack of early experience in 
the school work of art, and acknowledged that it would have 
been a shorter cut to his tardy success and have saved him 
an incalculable amount of labor and discouragement while 
he was thus finding out the limitations and possibilities of 
painting. But it may well be questioned whether quite the 
same results of his powerful inventiveness and originality 
would have been developed had he been spared the strug- 
gles which finally matured his Titanic strength. 

Inness painted very rapidly, and if his pictures could have 
been taken away from him at the proper moment, Mr. Monks 
says, he would have completed a painting a day. But he 
would follow a sunset through its successive phases, until 
it became a maze of contradictions. He would sometimes 



FOREIGN INFLUENCE 

change a broad sunlight effect of one day into a moonlight 
or "gray day 55 the next. He would paint from a sketch 
two years old with the same fervor, or more, than he would 
paint before nature ; and yet he was a most faithful and ar- 
dent student of nature, and would dwell with tremendous 
force and effect upon the minutest details when he felt them 
to be essential to an effect or when making studies for future 
use. On the other hand he would revel in the "interpreta- 
tion, 55 as he called it, of the merest pencil sketch of another 
artist, or in painting from a few wild scratches of his own 
made at random to see what he could evolve from them. 
Per contra, he once studied with enormous care an oak tree 
against a brilliant sunset, painting the leaves so that they 
almost seemed to rustle. He could get more varieties of 
foliage into a picture, so as to be distinguished even in the 
distance, than any painter of our day. He had a touch for 
each kind of tree that expressed it instantly and perfectly. 
In painting a large picture before a great subject, as for 
instance Mount Washington, he would change it every day, 
so sensitive and receptive was he to every impression and 
eager to include every phase, and leave it at the last a mass 
of "mud," At a safe distance, however, both of space and 
time, and with only his notes to rely upon he would complete 
a masterpiece upon the same subject. 

"I well remember, 5 ' said Mr. Monks, "the day we went out 
to make our first sketch together. He gave minute instruc- 
tions about drawing in the lines and frotting in the masses 
and we went to work. After an hour of diligent silence, Mr. 
Inness came around to my picture and exclaimed, c By Jove, 
you Ve got it better than I. 9 Then he added, 'Now paint in 
the mountain solid for background,* and when this instruc- 
tion, diametrically opposed to what had preceded, had been 
executed, with the dire result to be foreseen under any ordi- 

93 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

nary methods of painting, the hilarity of the great man at 
the tyro's discomfiture was like that of a mischievous boy/ 5 
Another characteristic incident was the scene in the Boston 
studio at the execution of the great Inness canvas intended 
for the Philadelphia exhibition which, by the way, was not 
sent. He had brought home from Italy the study for the 
picture which represented the grounds of a palace or villa 
overlooking the Mediterranean with an imposing procession 
of straight stone pines, which was always a favorite effect 
of his. He wanted a new sky painted into this picture, and 
Monks and his son George were given a large quantity of 
the blue color selected, and, mounting stepladders, worked 
carefully the whole sky over, while Inness busied himself be- 
low on the foreground. Towards night the result of this 
triplicate effort was viewed through a looking-glass, and 
through the legs of the painters, according to the custom of 
artists, and the atmospheric effect pronounced simply im- 
mense. The next morning Inness rose at an early hour and 
before either of his collaborators had arrived, the entire sky 
had been changed to a gray and with it the whole color 
scheme of the picture. 

Inness was not, Mr. Monks says, as might be supposed from 
the fluency of his utterance and the vigor of his thinking on 
many subjects, an incessant talker at his work. When he 
talked it was always on some question of the principles of art 
or some phase of nature ; it was never about himself or any- 
body else. He had no personal gossip or small talk about his 
contemporaries, no envy, jealousy or grudges, although at 
times his criticism was severe, and even savage upon popular- 
favorites; entirely on general grounds, however, and from 
serious conviction, not spite. He was nobody's fool in busi- 
ness matters, but was generous to a remarkable degree to- 
wards any cause or person interesting him. His considera- 

94 



FOREIGN INFLUENCE 

tion and painstaking in the teaching he gave Mr. Monks (he 
never took pupils as a regular thing, he would never have a 
customer even in his studio that he did not like) are looked 
back to now as something beautiful and extraordinary by its 
recipient. He once came to his studio when business was 
blue with the young painter, and within two hours a dealer 
had been sent who cheered things up; but Inness absented 
himself for a fortnight in order not to be thanked.- 



CHAPTER VII 

NEW YORK 

OUR nomadic life had not been without bene- 
fit, for the influences gathered at different 
points had developed my father's own 
style, and when he returned to New York he found 
that even there his weight was beginning to be felt, al- 
though financially he was by no means out of the 
woods. In our various wanderings we had not yet 
found the elusive haven known as "Easy Street." 

Times were still hard for both of us, Pop selling a 
picture occasionally for a small bit, and I making a 
sort of living at illustrating. More than once in those 
years I had to loan my father my watch to pawn with 
his, so that the rent might be paid. But how rich those 
years were in other things! Grand achievements, 
grand ideas immortalized on canvas! Grand com- 
panionship with my father ! 

Of these later days I can talk much more intimately 
because the threads of my own life are so interwoven 
with those of his. These things were of vital interest 
and concerned me often as truly as they did him, par- 

96 



NEW YORK 

ticularly in New York, where I, too, was reaching out 
for self-expression along the same lines. As I sit 
here and write of those days a flood of memories comes 
back to me. I can see my father so plainly in all 
phases of his life. Many-sided, versatile Pop! 
Truly a contradiction, as gentle as a lamb and as fero- 
cious as a Hon. Sensitive, introspective, absent- 
minded, and yet light-hearted and fun-loving and tin- 
der all conditions consumed with a passionate belief 
in his own destiny and ah intense desire for its fulfil- 
ment. No matter what his mood, the desire for self- 
expression surmounted everything. Nor was his ex- 
pression limited to paint and canvas. The same 
happy, joyous mood that produced one of his fresh 
spring landscapes, telling of love and immortality, 
brought from his pen this poem, called Exaltation: 

Sing joyfully ! 
Earth-bound no more, 
We rise. 

Creation speaks anew 
In brighter tones. 
Life now enthrones 
Its imaged forms, 
Winged with a joy that 
Ne'er from nature grew. 

Sing joyfully! 
The Lord has come. 
We live. 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

Released, the spirit flies, 

Robed with the light 

Above earth's night, 

A symphony. 

We sweep along in song that never dies. 

Sing joyfully! 

Bright nature lives 

In us. 

Thought, sight, and sound, 

Mind all are one. 

To gentle souls 

We whisper thought echoes of loves profound. 

Sing joyfully ! 

Life's sympathies 

Speak truth. 

Doubts but disease. 

Resurrection is affection, 

Spirit wakening, 

From earth's tides to voyage o'er brighter seas. 

Sing joy fully I 

A real world we see. 

Earth's meadows and its hills 

Within thy heart 

Their joys impart 

To us as well as thee. 

Sing joyfully! 

God all space fills. 

Or this, called "Address of the Clouds to the 
Earth": 

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We have wept our burden ; we have filled thy streams. 

Thy fields are vital with the greenness of a freshened life, O 

Earth, our brother. 

And now we court the winds, hilarious in our wedded joy. 
O'er thy high-reaching hills we break in varied forms, 
And make thy groves and meadows ring in joyous laugh 
At our black shadows as we pass. 
Soon will we join ourselves in softened forms, 
And, far extended on thy horizon, lie stretched along in 

sweep repose, 

As pearly pendants to thy distant mountain-peaks, 
Thy hills revealed, and all thy body bathed in shining light, 
We throw our kisses at thee as a vap'rous breath. 

While in -the spirit of introspection or dramatic in- 
tensity one could imagine the storm-clouds gathering 
on his canvas, creatures of his very depth of thought 
and dynamic action. "As a man thinks, so is he/ 5 can 
be truly spoken of George Inness. Many times he 
said to me: 

"George, my love for art is killing me, and yet it 
is what keeps me alive. It is my blessing and my 
curse." 

In this poem, which is called "Destiny," one feels 
the deep searching of his soul : 

O Being, wilt thou tell me what I am to thee and thou to 

me? 
When all Nature bows beneath the load of world-enforced 

cares 
My spirit weeps within the close circumference of a with- 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

ered heart ; and then necessity, a giant form, intrudes upon 
my sight. 

Me, with his iron pressure baring, as in prison bound, 
from all those joys which made this now so creeping time 
pass with the rapid stride with which the bounding blood of 
youth doth ever travel. While with a chill monotony his 
clammy breath falls on my ear in tones that shrivel all my 
thoughts to one fell word, which echoes through the empty 
chambers of my soul, nor leaves a cranny where my conscious- 
ness can hide itself from the dread sound of destiny. 

Elect not whither thou shalt go, for thou art bound, for- 
ever prison bound, by me. I I am destiny! And yet my 
quickened conscience tells me I am free. 

Child of my love, son of that womb which is my other self, 
speak not against decree ; for law is thy necessity, and as de- 
cree goes forth, so tireless mind builds it a home. That home 
is thee. Thou art thine own decree, yet see it not, for youth 
is blind to what is ever near us, thou the present heat or cold 
of life. And such is thy decree. 

My footsteps sound along the shores of time, the meas- 
ure of thy love. The note is low, nor is it in the power of 
sound to form a sweeter harmony than that which makes my 
step decree time's law to every occupant of nature's wide do- 
main. 

I am thy destiny, and I destine thee to be thine own decree* 
Yet never wilt thou touch the note that love decrees to thee 
till in thine own decree and, as with me, so is 't with thee. All 
law is mine, and what is mine my love bestows, nor can with- 
hold itself from being what it is to thee. 

My law is thy necessity, yet what I give to thee is thine to 
use as best shall see thee fit. Necessity is not the giant of 
thy fears, but law compelling all, create to meet thy heart's 
desires. 

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NEW YORK 

I am thy life. To live is first necessity, and life I give. 
There is no absolute to thee but me. My movement is crea- 
tion, and creation is that other self where I have formed my 
womb. There do I cease to be myself, and give to thee the 
touch that sets thee free, and brings thee to the knowledge of 
a world which I inhabit not, but where I do provide such im- 
ageries as shall convince thy being. Consciousness of the 
first truth which I create, reality there I am nearer to thee 
than thyself, hidden within the consciousness of being, in 
what I am lif e. 

I cause all things to appear to thee. I move in thee. To 
touch, to know that law arrests desire, here to create in 
thee, nor does allow its energy to waste itself from thee, but 
so returns it all that in the consciousness of me thou *rt con- 
scious of thyself, thou 5 rt free. 

Did I who called thee into life impose the unit of my per- 
son on thy every sense? No image, then, could meet thy 
gaze, no sense of touch be thine. Thou 5 dst cease to choose 
to be. But through the varied forms which I create by my 
infinity I offer thee the power of choice, and so from it, 
through nature, can redeem thy mortal thought to learn those 
truths within the bounds of which my all-creating will may 
lead thy spirit upward in eternal flight through worlds un- 
known to earthly eye or touch. 

There where I rest in thee, as consciousness in all, I the 
substance of the world create, do thou gaze, and so excite de- 
sire, that thou of thine own life's necessity may 5 st choose ; 
for from the point where I conjoin in you of my full heart 
I give the will to thine own choice, which filled, my spirit 
moves to thine own joy, there to be free. Thus will is free, 
for unto every living thing my love goes forth, that they may 
take as theirs what yet is mine. This dual power of which I 
am the sole and only being I represent to thee, in that thou 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

art the counterpart of yet another self with whom in union 
thou may *st ever grow and never full the point attain where 
you are perfect one. So do I in all nature image forth my- 
self that there may form a law which, as men multiply, shall 
serve to guide these yet unborn to endless time to that eter- 
nal destiny which love in them shall form. As unto life is 
she thine own desire counterpart, so is thyself to me. From 
thy desire is formed the image of thy choice, where housed 
in form as plays your nature love, quick memory builds the 
image of thy nature's self, the female of thy will. To wor- 
ship here is then to love, and in the fond embrace, where light 
should dwell, and understanding form an Eden for the soul, 
thou givest life to fiery form, create of thought alone, who 
bind thee with a triple chain of fancied ills, and turn the 
Eden where I destined thee into a hell of fear, where trem- 
bling terrors mock my words of love and turn thy life to 
hate. The serpent tongue of lust beguiles with logic form 
thy selfhood's self to meet thee with the fruit of fate, to 
eat of which is death. 

Thus is thy nature formed to be the subject of a choice in 
which no whit of evil is but good to grow in thee in varied 
forms when thou dost look to me and know* that I am life, not 
thee. I to provide, I to fulfil what through thy conscious be- 
ing thou shalt feel is thine, yet know is mine. Then shall 
my law as truth thine understanding fill with light, and in 
its glow my will in thee with bow and spear, the serpent of 
deceit shalt drive from out the precincts of the mind and 
every minion thought that fouls the aim of life thy lightening 
will, with loud resonant sound, shall clear away, and give me 
thee and paradise. 

Throughout his whole life he was as plastic as clay 
in my mother's hands. He loved her with an over- 

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NEW YORK 

whelming love, and had she been less wise in her gentle 
guidance, the world might never have known George 
Inness. Throughout their struggles and trials she 
was his counselor, watching him and guarding him 
with the tenderest love. He depended on her for ev- 
erything, from the arranging of his necktie to the solv- 
ing of his deep metaphysical problems. He was per- 
fect in her eyes, and their life was beautiful. I have 
never seen anything more beautiful. Often right up 
to the close of their lives I have seen them go off hand 
in hand like two lovers. He talked to her of his 
theories and ideals, which were often very involved, 
and whether she understood all of them or not, she 
made him feel that she did. The depth of his emo- 
tions is sounded in the following poem: 

A spirit came to me last night and said : 

"1 5 ve seen the working of thy mind in thought. 

As flowering trees within our worlds, they give out odor, 

And when breezes from our Lord among 

Their branches move their leaves to gentle rustling 

They give out with its smell soft, 

Zephyr sounds that yet are never sad, 

But rise into a clearer tone at times 

Like summer music, 

"There is again a gloaming light 
Which creeps along what seems the 
Understructure of our home, 
When questions agitate they mind and aH 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

Thy brain is laboring with the hard and fearful 
Logic of creation's mystery. 
We see the laborer in the morning dawn 
Delving with necessary toil the charitable globe. 
And from the Dullness of our souls let tear-drops fall, 
Quickening the dews of love in tender sympathy at the mas- 
culine endeavor. 
But yet we love the music most." 

The spirit turned, and then revealed the features of an 

early day 
When arm in arm we blessed the rising sun and cheered 

ourselves in one another's love as day declined. 
One golden sunset found myself alone. 
Since then she said the chord that bound us one, to outward 

eye unseen, has only finer spun, 
And now within thy brain I see the heart 
I loved in its reality. 

Nor age to pale the fire, nor poverty, nor any ill 
That earth can show to force itself between what thou art 

to me 

And I to thee. 
How good is God, and now with all these years of snow I, too, 

can say, 
How good is God! 

I deem it not inappropriate to quote here from the 
Boston "Transcript/* which interprets George Inness 
not as a master technician, but as a genius who has 
caught that deep spiritual significance of art which 
poured itself out freely, upon his canvases, and welded 
his art and religion into one grand passion. 

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George Inness's landscapes are the best painted in our 
time and country, in many instances the best painted in any 
time or country, because of the qualities of temperament 
with which the artist is endowed; and as it is these qualities 
of temperament revealed in the work which mark th$ produc- 
tions of all great artists, and set them apart from the com- 
monplace, the mediocre and the merely clever, it is proper to 
inquire, with a view of obtaining so much of an insight as 
may be possible into the make-up of what we call genius. 
What were these innate qualities, the sources whence sprung 
so much that was new and fine and powerful and grand? 
Undoubtedly such an inquiry involves something of a study, 
not only of Inness's own characteristics as an artist, but also 
of the universal attributes of the artistic temperament. 
The great human reservoirs from which the world draws 
its masterpieces of art as thoughtlessly as it draws a cup of 
water from a faucet are fed by many subterranean springs, 
springs which flow spontaneously, freely, irresistibly, always 
giving, joyous to be giving, without price but not without 
terrible cost to the giver. These springs are the vital ele- 
ments of the human heart and brain, transmuted into ma- 
terial forms and hues of imperishable beauty by the miracle 
of creative passion. Thejooaiospring of a great art is the 
master passion of love,^fihe power of exaltation, the suscep- 
tibility to a greai^ind uplifting emotion, a devine flight of the 
smit T<rb?alandscape painter of the George Inness stamp 
means the possession of a sensitiveness almost morbid, of a 
power of vision extra natural, of a susceptibility to certain 
phases of earths beauty so keen as to nearly elevate that 
beauty to a celestial plane; it means that seeing is a pleasure 
so rapturous that it borders upon pain; it means to be pos- 
sessed by a ruling passion that leaves no room for any other 
interest, pursuit or theme under the sun; it means that sick- 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

ness, affliction, poverty, hardships, reverses, disappointments 
are as nothing weighed in the balance against art ; it means 
the daily pageant of sunrise, of high noon, of sunset, of eve- 
ning, glorious beyond all description, filling the heart, filling 
the cup of life to overflowing, leaving only one supreme de- 
sire, to paint it all as it is, to paint it and then die. 

Of necessity my mother became the manager and 
banker of the family. It was impossible for father to 
keep money. There were numerous impecunious art- 
ists around New York who, when they heard that 
Pop had sold a picture, would come to him with tales 
of destitution and poverty, with disastrous results to 
Pop ; so it was finally decided to have all checks made 
directly payable to my mother, who held the purse- 
strings thereafter. 

This letter, written from Scranton, Pennsylvania, 
serves to show his dependence upon her: 

SCEAJNTTON, Sept., 1855 
My dearest wife : 

Above all things in the world I would love to see you. I 
have to think of you the more that I am in trouble. I left 
my baggage at St. John's and walked to Stroudsburg. The 
scamp never sent it. I left for Scranton with the promise 
from the stage proprietor that it should be sent to me the 
next day. It has not come, and I shall now be at expense to 
get it. I had to buy a shirt and other things, so that my 
money is almost gone. Send me ten dollars. I fear I shall 
need it. You will have to wait until I can send you money 
or until I return. There is no other way. 

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NEW YORK 

I kiss you a thousand times, my Love, and will hasten to 
you as soon as possible. Kiss my little ones for me. I will 
write you a long letter soon. 

Your affectionate husband, 

GEORGE LSTNESS. 

This trip to Scranton was made in the pot-boiling 
days of his career, and was for the purpose of making 
a painting of the first roundhouse on the D. L. & W. 
Railroad, which was to be used for advertising. 

There was in reality only one track at the time run- 
ning into the roundhouse, but the president of the road 
insisted on having four or five painted in, easing his 
conscience by explaining that the road would even- 
tually have them. 

Pop protested, but the president was adamant, and 
there was a family to support, so the tracks were 
painted in. 

In the busy years which followed, the picture was 
virtually forgotten until thirty years or more after- 
ward, when my mother and father were in the City of 
Mexico, they discovered the old canvas in a junk-shop. 
The shopkeeper knew nothing of its origin or who 
painted it, and explained that he had bought it with a 
job lot of office furnishings, and would be glad to sell 
it cheap. So my father purchased it for old time's 
sake. As he walked out of the shop he said, "Do you 
remember, Lizzie, how mad I was because they made 
me paint the name on the engine?" 

Ill 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

George Inness was generous to a fault, and no man 
in the world was more easily imposed upon. 

At the time he had a studio in the old Dodworth 
Hall, New York, there was a man who frequented the 
studios and made his living by his wits, turning his 
hand to anything that would bring him a penny, hon- 
est or otherwise, usually otherwise. Sometimes he 
preached, sometimes he traveled from town to town 
lecturing on the care of the teeth, hair, and feet, and 
selling his credulous listeners ground-up brick-dust, 
bits of soap or lard, for their particular ailment; and 
again he sold bits of scented cork supposed to possess 
the peculiar property of inducing sleep, which he said 
he had gathered in the Holy Land, but in reality in 
an old bottle-works in New Jersey. In his leisure 
moments he visited the artists to talk of art and to 
smoke their tobacco. One day he rushed into my 
father's studio, his face the picture of despair. 
Throwing himself into a chair he cried: "O my God! 
my wife, my poor dear wife, the mother of my little 
children! God help them! I cannot. O George, 
what shaU I do? I fear I will kill myself/' And he 
buried his face in his hands and sobbed like a child. 
Father, wild with anguish, sprang up and grasped him 
by the shoulders. 

"What is it?" he cried. "Your wife you said tell 
me, is she is she dead?" 



NEW YORK 

"No, George, not dead, not yet, but she soon will 
be, I 'm afraid. I left her with two doctors, and I 
have no money to pay for either medicine or food. O 
God, what shall I do! Where can I find a friend in 
this hour of need!" 

Father felt in his pockets and found nothing. 

"I have no money/' he cried; "but wait, old man, be 
calm, wait here." With tears streaming down his 
face he dashed out of the studio and to the art rooms of 
John Snedecor, on Broadway, "John," he cried fran- 
tically, "I must have money; give me money, quick 1 
It is a case of life and death. I must have it now, not 
a minute to lose. I '11 pay you back; have n't time to 
explain." Snedecor thrust twenty dollars into his 
hand, and he rushed back to the studio. "Here, man," 
he shouted, "take this, and God be with you. Hurry, 
for God's sake!" 

When he had left, Pop collapsed. He was com- 
pletely unnerved with the agony of seeing one go 
through that thing which he most dreaded in his own 
life. He was so weakened by the experience that he 
went home, and was not able to leave his bed for two 
days. On the third day, when he returned to the 
studio, spent and worn, his friend came in whistling, 
and Pop grasped him by the hand. 

"Your wife?" he asked. "Tell me, how is 

she?" 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

"Oh," he replied nonchalantly, "she 's all right, I 
left her at the wash-tubs." 

"But the other day she was ill, man, dying " 

"Oh, pshaw!" he replied, "that was because I wanted 
twenty dollars. Never mind, old man; 1*11 pay it 
back some day." 

But he did n't pay it back, nor did he ever come into 
the studio again. 



CHAPTER VIII 

NEW YOEK II 

FOR a while during the New York period my 
father and I had a studio together in the old 
Booth Theater at Broadway and Sixth Ave- 
nue. Pop was growing richer and broader in expres- 
sion with his maturer years and accumulated knowl- 
edge. 

When he painted he painted at white heat. Pas- 
sionate, dynamic in his force, I have seen him some- 
times like a madman, stripped to the waist, perspira- 
tion rolling like a mill-race from his face, with some 
tremendous idea struggling for expression. After 
a picture was complete it lost all value for him. He 
had no more interest in it. What was his masterpiece 
one day would he "dish-water" and "twaddle" the 
next. He would take a canvas hef ore the paint was 
really dry, and, being seized with another inspiration, 
would paint over it. I have known him to paint as 
many as half a dozen or more pictures on one canvas, 
in fact, as many as the canvas would hold. One day 
he called my mother and me into the studio and 
showed us a picture that he had just completed. 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

'There, Lizzie," he said, "I Ve at last done the 
thing that I have heen trying for aU my lif e. I Ve 
done it this time. I Ve got it at last. Ah, that 's it, 
and it 's so easy. See the effect? I can do it every 
time now. It 's just the easiest thing in the world. 
Can do it just as easy as eat. Well, Georgie, what do 
you think of it?" 

"Why, Pop," I said, "it 's beautiful. You have got 
it; your color and light couldn't be improved upon. 
It 's beautiful. It 's a masterpiece." 

Several days after that I came into the studio and 
found father pacing up and down the floor in a nerv- 
ous, excitable sort of way, saying: 

"There, I have got it this time. Thought I had it 
before. Light and color were n't right; but I Ve got 
it this time all right. Just the thing I want." 

I went over to the easel and looked at the canvas. 
My heart sank. It was ruined I I did n't say a word. 
I could n't. I wanted to cry. The beautiful compo- 
sition of the week before had been entirely painted 
over. For a while neither of us spoke; then my 
father, who was by that time highly nervous, growled 
out: 

"Well?" I didn't answer. "Well?" he snapped. 
"What have you got to say about it?" 

"Oh, nothing, Pop. Only what did you do it 
for?" 

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NEW YORK II 

"Now, there you go!" he snapped, and began to 
stamp up and down the floor. "What do you know 
about it, anyhow?" He slammed the palette down 
on the table. "Can't you see I 've unproved it? 
Can't you see what I Ve done? Look how much bet- 
ter it is now. Why, before it was dish-water, pea- 
soup. It had no character. Now it means some- 
thing. What did I send you over to Paris to study 
for? Come here telling me what to do! You don't 
know anything about it. Get out of here! Get out! 
I don't want you around." 

Hurt and disappointed, I left the studio and walked 
aimlessly about the streets. That evening at the din- 
ner-table in our boarding-house down on Washington 
Square father and I were both very glum. Mother 
looked from one to the other, but no word of explana- 
tion was offered. Pop looked like a thunder-cloud 
and did n't eat much. My dinner did n't taste good. 
I finished as soon as possible and, not waiting for 
dessert, excused myself and went to the Salmagundi 
Club. Our studio was a large one, and to save room 
rent, I slept on a cot behind a screen. It wag late 
when I got back that night. We had no gas, the only 
light in the room being that of candles. The entrance 
to the studio was through a narrow hall which opened 
on Sixth Avenue. I fumbled my way down the dark 
hall, opened the studio door, struck a match, and began 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

"There, Lizzie," he said, "I Ve at last done the 
thing that I have been trying for all my life. I Ve 
done it this time. I Ve got it at last. Ah, that 9 a it, 
and it 's so easy. See the effect? I can do it every 
time now. It 's just the easiest thing in the world. 
Can do it just as easy as eat. Well, Georgie, what do 
you think of it?" 

"Why, Pop," I said, "it 's heautif ul. You have got 
it; your color and light couldn't be improved upon. 
It ? s beautiful. It 's a masterpiece." 

Several days after that I came into the studio and 
found father pacing up and down the floor in a nerv- 
ous, excitable sort of way, saying: 

"There, I have got it this time. Thought I had it 
before. Light and color were n't right; but I Ve got 
it this time all right. Just the thing I want. 55 

I went over to the easel and looked at the canvas. 
My heart sank. It was ruined ! I did n't say a word. 
I could n't. I wanted to cry. The beautiful compo- 
sition of the week before had been entirely painted 
over. For a while neither of us spoke; then my 
father, who was by that time highly nervous, growled 
out: 

"Well?" I did n't answer. "Well?" he snapped. 
"What have you got to say about it?" 

"Oh, nothing, Pop. Only what did you do it 
for?" 

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NEW YORK II 

"Now, there you go!" he snapped, and began to 
stamp up and down the floor. "What do you know 
about it, anyhow?" He slammed the palette down 
on the table. "Can't you see I Ve improved it? 
Can't you see what I Ve done? Look how much bet- 
ter it is now. Why, before it was dish-water, pea- 
soup. It had no character. Now it means some- 
thing. What did I send you over to Paris to study 
for? Come here telling me what to do! You don't 
know anything about it. Get out of here! Get out! 
I don't want you around." 

Hurt and disappointed, I left the studio and walked 
aimlessly about the streets. That evening at the din- 
ner-table in our boarding-house down on Washington 
Square father and I were both very glum. Mother 
looked from one to the other, but no word of explana- 
tion was offered. Pop looked like a thunder-cloud 
and did n't eat much. My dinner did n't taste good. 
I finished as soon as possible and, not waiting for 
dessert, excused myself and went to the Salmagundi 
Club. Our studio was a large one, and to save room 
rent, I slept on a cot behind a screen. It wag late 
when I got back that night. We had no gas, the only 
light in the room being that of candles. The entrance 
to the studio was through a narrow hall which opened 
on Sixth Avenue. I fumbled my way down the dark 
hall, opened the studio door, struck a match, and began 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

to grope my way to the candle. As I walked I 
tripped over soft things that seemed to cover most of 
the floor. A frame cracked, and I jumped. The 
match went out. I struck another, and with difficulty 
reached the candle. Through its dim, flickering light 
I could see nothing. I then held it above my head, 
and saw rags, rags everywhere, strewn over the floor, 
steeped in dark, ugly stains that looked like blood. 
I didn't know what terrible thing had occurred; my 
first thought was that burglars had been there, and I 
was wondering what I should do, when I caught sight 
of the picture on the easel. I stared in my astonish- 
ment. It was the beautiful picture of the week before 
in all the spontaneous beauty that mother and I had 
admired. 

I blew out the candles, and crept into bed happy. 
The next morning when I went to breakfast I 
found Pop alone. At my greeting he simply nodded. 
After breakfast we started for the studio. We al- 
ways walked arm in arm, but this morning he did n't 
take my arm. I felt exactly what I knew he felt, and 
when I could stand it no longer, I thrust my arm in 
his, and we walked silently on until we had nearly 
reached the studio, when he said very simply : 
"Georgie, I nearly ruined that picture." 
"I know it, Pop ; but it 's all right now." 
"Yes," he said. "I could n't sleep. I got up and 

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NEW YORK II 

got a bottle of sweet-oil and a bundle of rags from the 
landlady, and went to the studio and wiped the whole 
damned thing off. George, we must have gas put 
in that studio/' 

But even that did n't cure him of that fatal habit. 
Nothing ever did, and it became more and more of a 
passion with him. Sometimes it was a good thing, 
but more often a beautiful canvas was ruined. How- 
ever, on one occasion it proved to be a success. I went 
into his studio one day when he was on Fifty-fifth 
Street, and as I entered I saw him standing in front 
of his easel. 

"Hello, Pop," I said. "Thought I would just run 
over and see what you were about. Got anything 
new?" 

"Yes, I have a canvas here I Ve been fussing over. 
How does it look?" 

"Fine, Pop," I answered enthusiastically; "all 
right, beautiful. Fine tone." 

"Yes, it has things in it, but it 's stupid. Confound 
it! it's too good; it's all tone. That's what's the 
matter with it. I Ve got too much detail in the fore- 
ground. That 's a thing we are always running up 
against to tickle the buyer to make a few dollars. 
Those weeds don't mean anything. Let 's take them 
out; they are not the picture. This picture is very 
good, but it 's all tone." 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

"Yes, Pop, but that's what I like about it; it's 
beautiful in tone." 

"Perhaps ; but that 's what makes it stupid. Why 
in thunder can't we put something in that 5 s out of 
tone? You see, there's no interest in this picture. 
It 's well drawn, yes, well constructed, well painted, 
and perfectly tonal; but there *s no passion in it. A 
picture without passion has no meaning, and it would 
be far better had it never been painted. Imitation 
is worthless. Photography does it much better than 
you or I could. In a bar-room in New York is a 
painting of a barn-door with hinges on it and a key- 
hole. It is painted so well that you would swear the 
hinges were real, and you could put your finger in the 
keyhole; but it is not real! It is not what it repre- 
sents. It is a lie. Clever, yes, but it gives you no 
sensation of truth, because before you look at it you 
are told that it is a lie. The only charm in this pic- 
ture is in deceiving you into the belief that it is a real 
barn-door. Now, in art, true art, we are not seeking 
to deceive. We do not pretend that this is a real 
tree, a real river; but we use the tree or the river as a 
means to give you the feeling or impression that under 
a certain effect is produced % upon us." He had for- 
gotten the picture in question for the time being, and 
had begun to pound away at me with his theories. 
"Now let us assume that an artist, through a divine 



NEW YORK II 

power, has been endowed with a keen sense to see the 
beautiful in nature that the ordinary layman who is 
chained to his desk cannot see. If we can give that 
man a canvas that will take him away from his desk 
and lead him into the field and make him feel what we 
feel when we hear the birds sing ancjl see the grain 
wave, we have done something good. In our art this 
is what we should strive for. But unfortunately the 
poor devil who is chained to his desk generally has no 
interest in the canvas other than the fact that it may 
have a greater money value after our death. I tell 
you, George, if we could only create a public who 
would appreciate art for art's sake, buy pictures be- 
cause they love them, and not be led by the nose by 
the dealer who knows less about art than the most ig- 
norant farmer whose corn-patch you are painting. 
And why does the picture-dealer know nothing about 
the art he is selling? Because his judgment is warped 
by the money he may make. In the dealer's eyes the 
greatest work of art is the one he can make the most 
money on. It has been proved hundreds of times. 
How about Millet, Corot? And I might mention a 
lot of others whose works were worthless until they 
were proclaimed great by their brother artists. Take 
myself, for instance. What has your liigh-class- 
painting* dealer done for me? Nothing was good 
without a foreign name on it. Why, when one of our 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

biggest dealers on Fifth Avenue, was asked to pro- 
cure for a gentleman two American pictures for one 
thousand dollars each, he said he could not take the 
order because there was not a picture produced in 
America worth one thousand dollars* Why? Be- 
cause they can go to Europe, buy a picture for twenty- 
five or fifty francs, with a foreign name on it, and sell 
it at a large profit/' 

"But the dealers are handling your pictures, Pop.** 

"Yes, I know the dealers are taking up my pictures, 
but simply because the public wants them. No, 
George, it 's all wrong, the whole system. There is 
no art in this country; we have no 'amateur,' If a 
man is going in for collecting, why does he not make 
enough of a study of it to be able to buy what he likes? 
In all my acquaintances of art buyers I do not know 
three who would dare buy a picture before he saw the 
name of the painter in the corner. Many a picture I 
have sold for fifty dollars. I wonder if it will be 
worth more after my death. If it is, I am quite sure 
it will not be a better work of art just because I am 
dead." 

It is interesting to note here that many of these pic- 
tures for which he received so small a sum are now 
bringing in the Fifth Avenue shops ten, fifteen, and 
twenty thousand dollars each. 

"Oh, well," he continued, "forget it. Maybe I have 

126 



NEW YORK II 

said too much. The dealer has his place, and perhaps 
we poor devils would starve to death without him; but 
when I see a dealer shed tears over a canvas that he 
expects to make five hundred per cent, on, I well, 
let 's get back to the picture." 

Nothing warmed him up to a pitch of inspiration 
quite so much as to expound his theories. His eyes 
were beginning to flash; he was becoming tense, and 
as he turned, with a swift, intense movement toward 
the easel, I knew that that exquisite tonal picture was 
doomed. He seized his palette, squeezed out a great 
quantity of ivory -black, and pounced on the canvas 
with the alertness of a lion. He dashed at the tree in 
the corner with a glaze of black, which he carried 
through the foreground. 

"There you see, George, the value of the gray color 
underneath glazing. The transparency of it comes 
out in tone. The shadows are full of color. Not pig- 
ment; all light and air. .Wipe out a little more of it. 
Never was anything as nice as transparent color/* 
He sprang back several paces, held his hand over his 
eyes, and looked at the canvas through half -closed 
lids. 

"Confound it, George! It's got too mucH tone! 
We don't know just what it 's going to be, but it 9 s 
coming. We don't care what it is so it expresses 
beauty." With a wild rush he swiftly painted out two 

129 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

of the sheep in the foreground. "Too much detail, I 
tell you/' His hair was disheveled, his eyes burned 
with the fire of creative intensity, and the tail of his 
shirt, responding to the emotional stress of its owner, 
had been jerked from its usual abiding-place. 
"Now," he continued, waving his palette in the air, 
"we are getting some kind of effect. Don't know 
what the deuce it 's going to be, but we are getting a 
start. Now we will suggest that tree in the middle 
distance with a little yellow." He stood off again, 
held his palette up to his eyes, and with another dash 
obliterated the tops of the trees with a dash of blue 
sky. The atmosphere was electrified. Pop was 
quivering with emotion, and I, too, caught the tense- 
ness of the situation. ,He dabbed and smeared, and 
for a quarter of an hour the silence was broken only 
by his quick breathing and the jabs of his brush on the 
canvas. He was bringing a composition out of chaos. 
"That old gnarled tree might make something; 
we *11 use that. Take advantage of anything you can 
on your canvas, George. Confound it! now t , your 
mother will give me the devil for using my shirt as a 
paint-rag. I think that 's asking too much. Can't 
have any peace. She won't let me do what I want. 
Now we '11 put a dab of dark here and light over there. 
Just like music, George the harmony of tone. We 
thump, thump, thump the keys to the distance, but 

130 



NEW YORK II 

don't forget to put in the harsh note, the accidental. 
It makes the contrast that gives interest and beauty 
to the whole, the gradation of light and shade which 
corresponds to music. What is art, anyway? Noth- 
ing but temperament, expression of your feelings. 
Some days you feel one way, some days another; all 
temperament. There, you see it's opening up. 
Tickle the eye, George, tickle the ear. Art is like 
music. Music sounds good to the ear, makes your 
feet go want to dance. Art is art; paint, mud, mu- 
sic, words, anything. Art takes hold of you senti- 
ment, life, expression. Take the poet. He does the 
same thing we are trying to do. Poe in 'The Bells/ 
for instance, all the same thing, it rolls, tolls, 
swells, dwells all poetry, all the same thing. He 
uses words ; we use paint ; the other fellow uses a fiddle. 
You can't go any further than that. Oh, to paint a 
picture, a sunset, without paint! To create without 
paint 1 I '11 tell you, George, if a man paints one pic- 
ture in a lifetime that 's good, he should be satisfied. 
When I 've painted one picture that 's a true ex- 
pression, I '11 be ready to go." Under the volley of 
words and strokes the composition was rapidly taking 
form. 

"Never paint with the idea of selling. Lose every- 
thing first, George. You can put in a little dog, 
maybe, and it will buy you an overcoat. Be honest; 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

somebody's going to find it out. You'll get the 
credit for it in the long run. Gad! the struggles I Ve 
had in my life to be true! Dealers come in and 
offer me money to put in this or that, and I have to 
do it because I have to live. There, see it grow only 
a tone; but it makes you feel good." With a few 
deft touches he had suggested several sheep in the 
foreground. The whole picture was dark and tonal. 
But the dull-red house of the original composition still 
stood out incongruously in the new. He stepped 
back several paces and looked at it; then with a dash 
he slapped in a mass of yellow ocher over the house, 
and with two or three sweeps of the brush had trans- 
formed the old red structure into a vibrant twilight 
sky. All the rest was dark and in perfect tone. 
With that supreme stroke he struck the accidental, 
and pushed the harmony almost to discord, and the 
finished canvas stood before us a masterpiece. 

While I am speaking of my father's ideals and 
theories, specially when they touch on what he called 
the trickery in art, I am constrained to tell the story 
of a lady whose favorite pastime in New York was 
hunting lions. This lady was very rich, and had con- 
stituted herself one of my father's patrons just at the 
time when he most needed patrons. 

One day when she was in the studio she became 
very enthusiastic over a canvas he was painting. She 



NEW YORK II 

watched him for some time, then burst out that she 
wanted to make a suggestion, but was too frightened. 

"Go right on, Madam," said my father. "What is 
it you would like to suggest?" 

"Oh, I am afraid to say it, but but don't you 
think oh, Mr. Inness, I 'm so afraid, but don't you 
think that if you had a man coming down the lane it 
would give interest?" 

Father looked up. 

"Why, I believe it would. You are right. That 's 
just what the picture wants. It needs a spot of light 
there. I 'm glad you mentioned it. I felt there was 
something lacking. There, that's it." The dear 
lady was all in a flutter as she saw him with consum- 
mate skill put the figure in. The artist, her latest 
lion, had taken her suggestion and had acted upon it. 

"Oh, mercy!" she continued, "dare I do it again? 
Now, oh, Mr. Inness, don't you think you might oh, 
dear, can't you put a little dog following the man?" 

Exasperated beyond control, he burst out: 

"Madam, you are a fool!" 

The lady never visited my father's studio again. 
The lion had snapped at her. She never bought an- 
other Inness and, I am told, sold all that she had. 

The tremendous desire to paint over a canvas did 
not limit itself to his own pictures. He was no re- 
specter of persons or pictures, and it made no differ- 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

ence who painted the original, who was the owner, or 
what was sacrificed in the doing. Many of his con- 
temporaries have fallen victims to this insatiate weak- 
ness. I believe he would far rather have painted on a 
picture than a clean canvas. The composition, no 
matter how good, always suggested something that he 
could improve upon. It became so bad that Mrs. A. 
H. Wyant, wife of the artist, finally had to forbid 
him her husband's studio. 

I remember on one occasion the artist J. G, Brown 
told me of my father coming into his studio in the 
Tenth Street Building, which is still one of New 
York's prominent studios, and after looking at a nice 
little bootblack who was making his black and tan dog 
beg for a piece of cake said: 

"That 's a good story, Brown, but your boy 's too 
clean, and your dog 's too black and tan. You Ve got 
too much in the picture; in fact, it 's all cracker-box 
and dog and boy. What you want is breadth. Take 
out some of those details and tell the story more sim- 
ply. Here, give me your brash; I '11 show you." 

"And," said Brown, "I wish you could have seen 
the way he went at that ten-by-fourteen canvas. 
With one sweep of the brush he had changed my beau- 
tiful brick wall into a twilight sky, had made a pool of 
water out of the cracker-box, wiped all the buttons off 
the boy's clothes, and changed boy and dog into a 

136 



NEW YORK II 

couple of dull-colored tramps. But I have that can- 
vas yet, and nothing would induce me to part with it." 

Such things happened often to me. About forty 
years ago I painted a picture of a team of oxen a 
picture of which my father was as proud as I. In 
fact, he thought so much of it that he bought a hand- 
some gold frame, and had it exhibited in the art rooms 
of Williams & Everett in Boston. Then the picture 
disappeared, and I wondered many times what had 
happened to it. I was sure that I had never sold it, 
and I had almost deluded myself into the belief and 
hope that some art lover had yielded to a great temp- 
tation and stolen it. But "what a check to proud am- 
bition!" One day recently, while visiting my sister, 
Mrs. Hartley, I was looking at a very wonderful can- 
vas of my father's that is hanging in her house, a pow- 
erful storm effect, and catching it in a cross light, I 
saw under the clouds and landscape the outline of my 
team of oxen. The mystery was solved. My oxen 
had come to light, or, rather, I should say, had been 
revealed in darkness. All these years they had been 
plodding through this glorious storm. Dear old Pop, 
in dire need of a canvas, had painted over my picture 
and immortalized it thus. 

Again, when I had a studio at 896 Broadway, Pop 
came in, and looking at a twenty-by-thirty canvas, 
which I called "The Lost Sheep," praised it exces- 

137 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

sively. This story seems almost incredible, but is 
true, nevertheless. The subject was a large sheep 
that took up the greater part of the canvas, I should 
say about sixteen inches, and by her side trudged a 
poor little lamb. They were lost in a snow-storm. 
The canvas was dry, having been set aside as finished. 
I was going to try to trade it off for a suit of clothes or 
something when Pop saw it. 

" "The Lost Sheep,' " he said, "why when did you 
do that? It's fine. Tells the story well, is well 
painted, and thoroughly carried out. You are on 
the right track; keep right on in that way. It is 
the first really complete picture you have painted, 
and it does not suggest me. You will find after this 
that your work will go much easier. Your trouble 
has been that you work too long on a picture; you 
must let it alone when you have finished it and not 
fuss over it. A very fine canvas, George," and in 
a very low voice, each word pronounced slowly and 
distinctly, "possibly a little too much detail in the 
foreground." He shaded his eyes with his hand, just 
as I had remembered him many years before while 
painting the wash-tub, then he began to get excited, 
and with a sweep of his arm said: "Don't you see 
your foreground is all full of weeds? They 've got 
nothing to do with the story. Why the devil can't 
you get more breadth in your pictures?" 

138 



NEW YORK II 

"But, Pop " 

"Nonsense, I tell you! It's got no breadth; it's 
full of things. Wipe them out if you are going to 
paint snow." Jumping up from his seat, he shouted: 
"Why in thunder don't you make it snow? Give it 
breadth/' He stalked up and down the studio, wav- 
ing his arms around his head. "What is it? If you 
want to make a picture of it, take out that sheep. 
It 's a snow scene you are painting; then give a feel- 
ing of snow. Take out that sheep; it has no value." 

"But, Pop 55 I protested. 

"I tell you 99 - shaking his fist and rushing up to 
the canvas "it's as much like a sheep as a stone 
wall. Here, give me your brushes; I '11 show you. 5 ' 
I handed over palette and brushes. He squeezed out 
a quantity of white paint, and went at it as if he were 
plastering a wall. He didn't paint out the sheep; 
he simply enveloped it. His hair was tumbled, his 
face flushed, and he worked like something possessed. 
When he was through, he flung down the palette, 
sank into a chair, and said, "There! Now you've 
got some breadth to your picture!" 

We sat and looked at each other for a few moments 
in silence. 

Finally Pop spoke: 

"Well, why don't you say something? Don't sit 
there like a bump on a log. Don't you like it?" 

139 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

"No," I said; "my picture is ruined." 

"Then," he exclaimed impatiently, "why the devil 
did you do it, George? Wipe it off!" 

This I did. 

"There now," he said, "you've got you* picture 
back. Never do such a thing again, George. I do 
it, too, and it 's the curse of my life. You Ve got a 
good picture there, and for Heaven's sake leave it 
alone now!" 

"The Lost Sheep" was found, and we walked arm 
in arm out of the studio to dinner. 

My father had the idea firmly established in his 
mind that a work of art from his brush always re- 
mained his property, and that he had the right to 
paint it over or change it at will, no matter where he 
found it or who had bought it, or what money he may 
have received for it. Wherever he found his pictures 
after they had left his studio he criticized, and would 
in most violent language declare the thing was "rot," 
that the sky was false or the distance out of key, and 
in a very matter of fact way would say "Just send it 
around to the studio to-morrow and I '11 put it into 
shape." 

"But I like it as it is," the purchaser would reply. 

"It makes no difference what you like; I say the 
thing is false. Here, let me take it with me, and I 

140 



NEW YORK II 

will make a picture of it. I see a fine idea in it, and I 
will have it done to-morrow." 

In response to the owner's entirely legitimate ob- 
jections he would continue: 

"Nonsense! What right have you to like it when 
I find it false and discordant? Don't you think I 
know what I am talking ahout? And I want you to 
understand, sir, that I claim the right to go into any 
house and change a work of mine when I am not sat- 
isfied with it, and see where I can improve it. Do 
you think, because you have paid money for a picture 
of mine, that it belongs to you? If you had any 
knowledge of art, you would see that it is false and 
be glad to have me work upon it and improve it*" 

He was perfectly sincere in such convictions and 
honestly tried to carry them out. 

A gentleman once bought from my father a large 
and important canvas. He was very proud of pos- 
sessing it, and asked Inness to send it to the exhibition 
of the Academy of Design, which was to be held the 
next week, explaining that it would give him much 
pleasure to show his friends the picture he had bought, 
and to have it hung in the academy rooms. My 
father agreed readily, as he believed this particular 
picture to be the finest thing he had ever done. The 
last was always the best, the old story of the new baby. 

141 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

So he assured his patron that the canvas would be, 
sent. 

The next day Inness looked at the canvas. 

"This has been sold," he thought; "it is finished and 
going to be taken away. I wonder if I can improve 
it. The foreground wants some lifting up; it lacks 
interest. These rocks are too small, and the sea that 
is beating against them looks hard, it has no motion." 

On the impulse of the moment he seized his palette 
and dashed at the canvas. The quiet waves were 
turned into a raging sea of foam, the sky was dark- 
ened to lower the tone, and over the whole picture an 
angry thunder-storm was cast. He stood off from 
the easel and looked at it. 

"Confound the thing! I Ve ruined it. The sea is 
mud, and the sky has turned to lead. I cannot rub 
it off because the paint underneath is wet. It 9 s get- 
ting dark, and I must catch the train. Curse the 
luck! I '11 never do such a thing again. When I 
get a picture finished, and any damn fool wants to 
buy it, I will leave it alone whether I like it or not." 

When Pop reached home that evening it was quite 
evident to mother that something had gone wrong 
with his work. She always knew, and although he 
was very glum and wanted to be let alone, she, with 
an art of her own, drew the whole story out bit by bit, 
and when he had finished she sent him to bed con- 



NEW YORK II 

vinced by her wise arguments that he had improved 
the picture, and with a few deft strokes could bring 
it back to perfection in the morning. 

The next day, upon reaching the studio, he was 
still of the opinion that it had been for the best that 
he had blotted out "that stupid sea picture," giving 
him a real opportunity to make a beautiful thing. 
The big rock he changed into an apple-tree. With 
the aid of a palette-knife he scraped off the raging sea, 
and in its place painted in a rich grass meadow. In 
the middle distance he placed a clump of elm-trees in 
shadow. He was happy once again, and as he sang 
and whistled the picture grew. Here was a new 
problem to solve, a new idea to bring into being, to 
create* 

The postman dropped a letter in the slot, but In- 
ness was in no mood for letters. He scarcely noticed 
it. When under the fibre of inspiration he heard noth- 
ing, saw nothing, cared for nothing but the thing 
which he was creating. The picture was growing at 
his touch. A big bright cloud rolled up behind the 
elms, a heavy pall hung down from the zenith of the 
sky, and here and there little clouds floated in a soft, 
gray sky, and down upon the horizon settled a veil of 
deeper blue, throwing in relief a sunlit barn. Far 
beyond a puff of smoke rose from a rushing train. 
The darkened pall of cloud cast a shadow on the 

145 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

ground in front, leaving the rest bathed in amber light. 

Exhausted, but happy, Pop filled his pipe, picked 
up the letter from the floor, and dropping into a chair 
opened the letter, which inclosed^ a check for the pic- 
ture on the easel before him, the one he had just com* 
pleted. 

"The gentleman will be pleased," he said aloud, 
"The subject is nothing. It is the art he wants, and 
this is the greatest thing I have ever done/' 

The following week the academy exhibition opened, 
and according to my father's promise the picture was 
hung. The gentleman who had purchased it was 
there on the first day, eager to show the great master- 
piece to his friends. He searched the galleries 
through, and great was his chagrin at not finding it; 
but when he caught sight of the new Inness he ex- 
claimed to his friends that this one was finer than the 
one he had bought, and expressed his regret at not 
having seen it first. A crowd had gathered around 
the canvas, artists and laymen, and were looking with 
unconcealed admiration at the work of the master 
when my father and I entered. Catching sight of 
Inness, his patron rushed up to him and exclaimed: 

"Mr. Inness, how could you disappoint me so? 
You promised to send my picture here, and you have 
sent this one." 

146 



NEW YORK II 

"Why, this is your picture," said Pop, "a little 
changed, perhaps; but then, you see, I had not fin- 
ished it." 



147 



G 



CHAPTER IX 

LETTERS 

EORGE INNESS is known primarily as 
a landscape-painter, and as such he won 
his reputation; but it is interesting to note 
that even after he had established himself as a painter 
of landscapes he became very enthusiastic about fig- 
ure-painting, and decided to go into that almost to 
the exclusion of the broader subject. These letters 
to my mother tell the story better than I can. 

SUNDAY, MILTON, July, 1881 
My darling wife: 

I was glad to get your two letters, as I had wondered why 
I had not heard from you more frequently. I begin to feel 
lonely without you, but there is no help for it. What I de- 
termine upon I must hereafter carry out resolutely or I shall 
accomplish nothing. I will no longer have any unfinished 
work in my wake to bother me. 

My picture still needs about three days, I think, but if I 
can improve it after that I shall not hesitate to use the time. 
I think you will be somewhat surprised when you see it. The 
old man seems to strike people as wonderful. The boy's 
face also is considered very fine, although he is not yet fin- 
ished, particularly the figure and hands, which have a great 
deal to do with thfc faces. The old man's eyes, just peering 

148 



LETTERS 

out from under the rim of his hat against a glowing twi- 
light sky, have a most weird and striking effect. The hands 
are very thorough and strong in character, and the whole 
picture is exceedingly mellow and rich with the light of the 
afterglow. 

You have no idea how stunningly I am painting every part 
of it. Every part speaks of reality. I begin to feel now 
that I have got at what will always be in demand at good 
prices, and I feel my interest in this sort of thing gradually 
taking the place of landscape. They are certainly more 
satisfactory, although at present I have to apply myself 
very closely. 

My next I shall no doubt do with much greater ease and 
certainty. We have had one or two rather warm days this 
week, but it is cool enough now; in fact, on the piazza it is 
almost cold. I hope, darling, that you are enjoying your- 
self and having a good time. I thought at one time that J 
might find some subjects at Alexandria Bay, but if I did, it 
would be difficult to get models and opportunities which I get 
here. Here I have everything just as I want and need at 
present, just such subjects as suit me, and every conven- 
ience of time. 

The old man and his children, together with some little 
girls who are running about, make capital models, and I 
must not neglect this opportunity if I intend to paint these 
subjects. If I do not do it now I shall never do it, and if I 
can get these pictures in the style of the one I am painting 
finished this summer, I shall feel pretty sure of being able to 
get myself into smooth waters. 

All the friends here send their kind regards and good 
wishes, and some of them will await your return with impa- 
tience as time lessens the distance between us. 

I am never in a very good condition to write, as my work 

149 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

is pretty constant and uses up my powers pretty well, al- 
though otherwise I thrive under the work. To-day I got 
interested in a book, and have been reading all day, which 
rather upsets me for writing very brilliant letters. Give my 
love to all, 

Your affectionate GEORGE. 

MILTON, July 6, 1881 
My darling wife: 

I received your very dear letter this evening, and with it 
the others from Mr. Smith, which did not, of course, make 
me feel very brilliant ; so I went to work with some charcoal 
and made some sketches lentil I got myself in a more com- 
fortable condition. I did not feel very much disturbed, how- 
ever, as I always thought the sending pictures to London was 
nonsense. I thought that the small one might do something 
at a moderate price, but the works of an unknown artist are 
not worth anything until some known dealer works them 
up. Still, as they are there, perhaps Mr. Smith may find a 
dealer with whom he may make a bargain ; but if he does, it 
will be for very little. 

It is going to be a scorcher to-day. It is now half-past 
six, and the thermometer is at seventy-eight ; so that we may 
expect to be among the big figures about noon. I am in 
excellent spirits, however, and only fear that my old man 
may find it too hot to stand for me. I got my canvas 
stretched and the figures drawn in charcoal from the sketch 
yesterday afternoon, but the old man did not feel very well, 
so I sketched in the background with some minor matters, 
and left the canvas, etc., at his house for this morning, when 
he promised to stand. 

As I write I feel a breeze spring up from southwest, so 
that it may turn out cooler. I am much stronger in many 
ways than you think. It is not so much the body as it is 

150 



LETTERS 

the discouraging anxieties which I have had to endure, and 
which come over me at every landscape that I complete. It 
seems to say, what use am I? It is therefore desirable that 
I get myself firmly fixed in this painting of figure and over- 
come the tendency to an old sympathy, 

If I had gone with you to Alexandria Bay the fresh scen- 
ery there would have at once put me off the track, and I con- 
sider it a good thing that this figure picture had got full 
possession of my mind. I begin to feel the increasing inter- 
est in them, and I find that the landscape which I introduce 
has a charm greater than when painted alone. There is a 
calf fastened to the side of the lane of which I can make 
great use in something ; in fact, I begin to see how the inter- 
est of figure and landscape are to be combined better and 
better every day, and how the charm of the latter can be 
vastly increased thereby. 

MILTON, SUNDAY, July, 1881 
My darling wife: 

It would be very pleasant for me to be with you to-day, 
but distance and expense stand between us as too great for a 
short visit; for I could not leave what I am doing perma- 
nently, and I am sure you would not desire it at the expense 
of neglecting my work. 

The weather is at times pretty warm, but on the whole I 
get on very well, working easily and successfully. I have 
now had four days upon my figure picture, and it is very sat- 
isfactory. I am convinced now that I can paint these 
things without any lack of character or accuracy. Mr. 
Gurney says he would choose it sooner as it is than any of 
my landscapes, and as long as I can get a model, I can get 
on as easily with one as with another. You may feel assured 
that two or three such pictures as this is getting to be will 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

get us out of trouble. If I do not sell a landscape, I fed 
that I am getting stunning characters, and I see several 
things to do which will be as good. I think it probable that 
I shall get through this week, but am not certain ; in any case 
I do not think it advisable to leave a field where I am doing 
such successful work and enjoying good health at the same 
time. If I had money, I might feel differently; but if I do 
not hear something favorable from the pictures I sent to 
New York, I must go there and try to stir up something. It 
will never do for me to wait until I am almost out of money. 
It seems to me that until affairs are in better shape I must 
remain nearer my base of supplies. 

I am glad to know, my dear, that you are enjoying your- 
self. Be happy and feel certain that our short separation 
will end in a great satisfaction to us both in the knowledge 
that my stay here has been pecuniary profit. I have ob- 
tained the box for Nell. It is from Mr. Duly, a very hand- 
some mat of fox-skins, which I presume is for looks rather 
than use. 

It was my intention to write you a good long letter to-dayj 
but I find myself very dull, I presume from having got inter- 
ested in one of those subjects which absorb the mind to a 
point of exhaustion; so you must not think I neglect you 
for my greatest happiness is to be where you are. All the 
friends here inquire of me as to how you are enjoying your- 
self, and send much love. Give my love to Nell and Scott, 
and remember me to all. 

Your affectionate husband, 

GEOEGE INNESS. 

MTLTON,, July 13, 1881 
My dear mfe: 

I do not think it wise for me to leave here at present. My 
work is going on well, and I am well. So you must not ex- 

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Owned by Mr. James W. Ellsworth 



MIDSUMMER 



LETTERS 

pect me for some time, and it may be that I shall stay here 
until you come back. I have already written you why I 
consider it necessary for me to stay. My picture is a great 
success and progresses rapidly. A few more days will finish 

it. C was here to-day on his way to Palenville, He 

seems to think it will create a sensation and will command 
ready sale. It is certainly a very striking picture, and as 
soon as it is finished I shall commence another, which I have 
composed from nature. 

I think these things will bring money readily, and I am 
determined to get out of debt this winter, and the sale of 
landscapes is too uncertain. 

I trust, my dear, that you will enjoy yourself just the 
same. The weather is rather warm, but nothing distressing. 
I do not mind it. Give my love to all. Does baby remember 

grandpa? 

Your affectionate 

GEOEGE. 

MTLTON, July 19, 1881 

My dear wife: 

I have just received yours of the 17th inst. 

I still have our room, so that if you conclude to come on 
the first of August we can be accommodated as before. I 
fed very lonely sometimes without you, although I keep my- 
self so thoroughly employed that I drive away anything like 
the blues. I hope that you will come, but I do not feel that 
I shall press you against what you think you should do. All 
the friends here are anxious that you should return soon. If 
Ndl can get on without you, I do not see why you should 

stay. 

I have commenced the new picture. It is a part of the 
lane near the old man's house, including him and several fig- 
ures of children, a dog and so forth. I just write this in 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

haste as a requested answer to your last. So you must 
excuse its shortness. I shall write again in a day or two. 

Yours affectionately, 

GEORGE. 

July &2, 1881 
My dear wife: 

I have been so busy that I have not been able to write to 
you since Tuesday last, as I intended to. I have just been 
looking over my picture of the old man, which I have laid 
aside for a day or two. There is certainly something won- 
derful in this picture, as several persons have said. It is 
exceedingly elaborate, but sufficiently broad. I still have 
about a day's work upon it, which I shall do when I feel 
perfectly fresh. The picture is a warm, mellow russet-gray, 
and gives the feeling of the time very strangely, and whoever 
looks at it once will not get away from it very easily. My 
second picture progresses very rapidly, and is to be fresh 
and green, though not violent. I shall soon paint the figure 
with great power. I commenced another picture to-day, 
which I had made a small sketch of and have had in my mind 
for some time. The size is thirty-eight by twenty-four. 
Subject, "An Evening at the Pond." I have taken just a 
small bit by the water, with rushes very near and a dark wood 
on opposite bank against the reflection of this wood. I have 
a figure of a girl in light grays and white in shadow, and a 
boy, feet in water, throwing a stone at some large birds 
which are rising from the rushes. A brilliant evening sky at 
the right, seen over some lower forms of wood, is reflected 
in the foreground, and the back of a black cow is seen going 
out of the picture. This tells the story of the girl and boy 
without introducing more cattle. The girl is about twelve 
inches high. The effect is grand, and so igs the color; in 

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LETTERS 

fact, the picture seems to me to express grandeur better than 
anything I have done. All these pictures are painted with 
very gray colors, which I find give me the truest tone of na- 
ture, so that, although they are very rich, they are full of 
air. 

The picture of the lane is very real-looking. How is the 
little tot? I want to see her very much, as I do all of you, 
but I must carry out my program. I wonder sometimes at 
what I go through, but though I sometimes feel pretty well 
used up, I soon recuperate, and find it best not to give way to 
the notion of fatigue, as work agrees with me, and a little 
change of subject rests me better than to do nothing. 

Good-by, darling, 
Your affectionate husband, 

GEO-BGE. 

MTLTON, July 22, 1881 
My dear wife : 

I hardly know what to write to you to-night as I feel 
rather dull and in no condition to write. It is not that I am 
not well exactly, but a sort of depression which will not re- 
lieve itself in words. I presume it is the natural effect of 
hard work, and I presume the rest I have had to-day will 
bring me all right by morning. I am glad to hear that you 
have determined to return on the first of August. You may 
depend that I shall be very glad to see you again. I have 
found some beautiful walks, which we can take together as 
we did in the old times. 

The pictures go on all right. This afternoon it has 
been rather warm, but nothing to speak of. On the whole, 
it has been very comfortable, and I do not think we shall have 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

much warm weather this summer. Excuse this short letter, 
and give my love to all. 

Your affectionate husband, 

GEORGE. 

Dear wife: 

Milton is where you left it, and all things are about the 
same. Work goes on as usual, and all is serene. My pic- 
ture interests me more and more as it goes on, particularly 
now that it begins to have force and gets nearer and nearer 
to the tone of nature. I shall continue working on it as 
long as I can improve it, so that precisely when it will be 
finished I cannot say; however as long as I obtain what I 
want the time is not to be considered. I presume you are 
enjoying yourself ; that is, if you can keep cool. It is pretty 
warm here to-day ; about ninety, I think, 

We expect you to bring lots of news upon your return, 
All hands seem to miss you, and none more than I. I shall 
look for you on Saturday. Give my love to Julia and 
George. 

Your affectionate GEOEGE. 

The picture of the old man referred to in these let- 
ters was sold in the executor's sale of Inness pictures 
in 1895. The picture itself brought only two hun- 
dred and eighty dollars, but the entire amount of the 
whole sale exceeded one hundred thousand dollars. 

My father's enthusiasm for figure-painting did not 
last long, a few years at most, but while it lasted, he 
did some very noteworthy things, "The Old Veteran/' 
or "The Old Man" being one of the best examples. 

158 




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o 



LETTERS 

There is a little story connected with this canvas. 
It disappeared, as father's pictures had done before, 
and we supposed it had merely gone the way of many 
of his best works; that being in need of a canvas, he 
had painted the old man out. We were resigned to 
the loss. Some time later the picture was discovered 
beautifully framed in the home of a gentleman who 
was one of Pop's patrons. Upon inquiry as to how 
he got it, the gentleman replied in very positive tones 
that he had purchased it from George Inness himself. 

"jNever," said my father. "I did not sell you that 
picture." 

"Well, Mr. Inness/' he continued, "do you remem- 
ber selling me this?" He pointed to a landscape of 
my father's. 

"I do," answered Pop. 

"Well, when you sold me that landscape you sold 
me this old man. When I got it home I found that 
the canvas on which you had painted the landscape 
had been stretched over the original canvas of the old 
veteran; therefore I consider that I own both of these 
pictures, as I paid you for them when purchasing the 
landscape. I bought the stretcher, with all that was 
on it." 

"I suppose," said my father, "that if you bought a 
pair of shoes and found that a five-dollar bill had ac- 
cidently dropped into one of the shoes while the clerk 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

was wrapping them up, you would keep the five dol- 
lars. Unless you return the old man to me I shall be 
obliged to take the matter into court." 

The picture was returned. 

In the summer of 1883 my father painted in Nan- 
tucket, where.he found much to interest him, judging 
from the following letters : 

SCONSET, Aug. g, 1883 
My dear wife i 

We are still having very fine weather, and I find myself in 
excellent condition. Everything goes on well, and my work 
is advancing with tolerable rapidity. I have advanced the 
picture, commenced while you were here, very considerably, 
and have a very good start on another which promises well. 
I am obliged to refuse to show my work, as the curiosity of 
people becomes a nuisance ; so I told Nichols that when they 
are finished he can have them at his house, and put up a no- 
tice on the town pump that they are on exhibition. 

..... * 

I find plenty of employment, so that the time passes easily, 
and if I improve as I have done the last two days, I have no 
doubt but that I shall gather considerable strength for the 
winter. I find new and interesting points continually, and I 
do not know but that the very grandeur of the scenery forces 
me to make telling combinations. At least I obtain some- 
thing new and out of the usual run of subjects^ I saw a very 
fine sunset last evening from Mr. Burbank's house which with 
figures could be made interesting and striking, and I do not 
know but tjiat I may send for two larger boards and paint 
two more extensive scenes which have impressed me. This, 
however, is to be considered hereafter, as I wish to clean up 

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LETTERS 

pretty well as I go on. Give my love to Nellie and kiss the 
babies for me. Tell Rosie that I may find something for 
her when I come back. 

Your affectionate husband, 

GEOBGE. 

SCONSET, Aug. 4, 1883 
My dear Lizzie: 

I have just been out to see the setting of the sun, strolling 
up the road and studying the solemn tones of the passing 
daylight. There is something peculiarly impressive in the 
effects of the far-stretching distance, the weather-worn gray 
of the buildings, and the general sense of solitariness which 
quite suits my present mood. I find more and more to in- 
terest me, and shall no doubt find my stay here profitable* 
My first picture is very nearly complete, and has, I think, an 
exquisite tone without losing the sense of brightness. The 
second progresses very satisfactorily, and will take but a 
few days more to finish. The third picture is all arranged 
and ready for painting in color, which I hope to do quickly 
as soon as I am ready to commence it. 

I have had a great success with another painted but of 
doors back of Nichols' barn some sheep coming through a 
gateway. For that I have used one of the large mill boards, 
so that although I stroll about and work at intervals only, 
there has been considerable work done. 

I took a walk just before dinner, and was very much taken 
with the effects of a broad field, with its faded yellow grass, 
terminating against a blue sky with white clouds sailing along 
in the clear atmosphere, and if I have time I hope to paint 
it. If I can only get the sense of vastness with which it im- 
presses me I think a picture of it will be very novel and 
very telling. 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

I called upon Mr. Flagg yesterday, who insisted upon my 
staying to supper. I had a very pleasant time and a bit of 
bluefish done to perfection. I thought I had never tasted 
anything so nice. He appears to be aw -fait in this sort of 
thing, and takes a great deal of pride in having everything 
for his table done in the best manner. I also called with 

Nichols upon Miss F this afternoon, so you see I am 

getting to be quite a society man. I should not object, how- 
ever, to the ladies having a little more beauty, for a homelier 
set of women than have taken possession of Sconset I think 
I never saw together in one place. I am afraid, my dear, 
that you have spoiled me. I always think well, I wish I 
could see my Lizzie. But so much of the brown earth and 
blue water separate us now that my only satisfaction must 
be in asking you to kiss yourself for me. 

Your loving GEORGE. 

The following summer these letters came from Vir- 
ginia, where he made some very excellent paintings. 

GOOCBXAND COURTHOUSE, VA., 

Sunday, April, 1884 
My dear wife: 

I have read your two letters, and you may be sure that I 
am much gratified at finding you greatly gratified at my suc- 
cess. I am glad, darling, that I am able to contribute to 
your pleasure in life. I am very busy now and have been 
since you left. I painted a twenty by thirty to-day from 
nature, and it is a great success. Wind clouds, a plowed 
field, with a sower and oxen in a road in the foreground. It 
looks very breezy and like out of doors. I have now thir- 
teen pictures, studies, and sketches. I think, after all, the 
prisoner is going to prove a decided success. It has been 
very warm to-day, rather uncomfortable sitting in the sun. 

164 




From the Butler collection in The Art Institute of Chicago 

EARLY MORNING TARPON SPRINGS 



LETTERS 

Then foliage is gradually coming out, and the grass does not 
make much headway, 

I hardly know what to think of California, but have plenty 
of time to make up my mind. I shall start for home on Wed- 
nesday week. When do you expect to go to Milton? I want 
to get to New York before you go if I can, as I presume I 
will have to stay in the city a day or two* If I conclude to 
go to the Yosemite, however, your stay at Milton will be 
short. Let me know your plans in that event. I have a 
little work to do this evening, so I will write no more. Ev- 
ery instant is occupied till bedtime now, yet my health is bet- 
ter than usual, as I do a great deal of walking. I have 
walked about seven miles to-day. Give my love to all. 

Yours affectionately, 

GEORGE. 



GOOCHI*AND COTJKTHOTJSE, 

Wednesday, May, 1884r 
My dear mfei 

I received two of your welcome letters yesterday, and 
should have written last night, but was so busy through the 
day that I could not bring myself up to writing. The study 
I wrote you last about I consider the most desirable of all, 
as I have attained a certain thing which I had not as yet got 
thoroughly hold of. I feel sometimes provoked that the 
figure-picture has cost me so much time, but it is doing this 
that has enabled me to do the other quickly, and besides the 
figure-picture promises to be all that I aimed at and a re- 
markable piece of landscape and figure combination ; yet what 
is curious, the modeling of the grass is the most difficult part 
of it. I want to make one other study, and then I think I 
shall begin my preparation for moving. I want you to send 
me a check for twenty-five dollars, as I leave sooner than 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

Wednesday next, I may go to Richmond and make a sketch 
of a scene which impressed me very much, and then return hy 
the Shenandoah road to Washington and spend a day there, 
and I may no.t have enough. 

I shall be with you again in a week. 

Yours affectionately, 

GEORGE. 

He did go to California soon after this, where he 
painted scenes of the Yosemite Valley and other parts 
of the State, and later spent several winters in Florida. 

That my father was an impressionist in the highest 
sense of the word cannot be denied, but he abhorred 
the name and what it stood for in its generally ac- 
cepted terms. In reply to a criticism of Inness's 
work which was published in a newspaper which I 
have entirely lost track of, I find this letter: 

TAEPON SPRINGS, FLORIDA 
Editor Ledger: 

A copy of your letter has been handed to me in which I 
find your art editor has classified my work among the "Im- 
pressionists." The article is certainly all that I could ask 
in the way of compliment. . I am sorry, however, that either 
of my works should have been so lacking in the necessary de- 
tail that from a legitimate landscape-painter I have come to 
be classed as a follower of the new fad "Impressionism." As, 
however, no evil extreme enters the world of mind except as 
an effort of life to restore the balance disturbed by some 
previous extreme, in this instance say Preraphaelism. Ab- 
surdities frequently prove to be the beginnings of uses end- 

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LETTERS 

ing in a clearer understanding of the legitimate as the ra- 
tionale of the question involved. _ 

We are all the subjects of impressions, and some of us 
legitimates seek to convey our impressions to others. In the 
art of communicating impressions lies the power of general- 
izing without losing that logical connection of parts to the 
whole which satisfies the mind. 

The elements of this, therefore, are solidity of objects and 
transparency of shadows in a breathable atmosphere through 
which we are conscious of spaces and distances. By the 
rendering of these elements we suggest the invisible side of 
visible objects. These elements constitute the grammar of 
painting, and the want of that grammar gives to pictures 
either the flatness of the silhouette or the vulgarity of an 
over-strained objectivity or the puddling twaddle of 
Preraphaelism. 

Every fad immediately becomes so involved in its applica- 
tion of its want of understanding of its mental origin and 
that the great desire of people to label men and things that 
one extreme is made to meet with the other in a muddle of 
unseen life application. And as no one is long what he la- 
bels himself, we see realists whose power is in a strong poetic 
sense as with Corbet. And Impressionists, who from a de- 
sire to give a little objective interest to their pancake of 
color, seek aid from the weakness of Preraphaelism, as with 
Monet. Monet made by the power of life through another 
kind of humbug. For when people tell me that the painter 
sees nature in the way the Impressionists paint it, I say, 
"Humbug" I from the lie of intent to the lie of ignorance. 

Monet induces the humbug of the first form and tie stu- 
pidity of the second. Through malformed eyes we see im- 
perfectly and are subjects for the optician. Though the 
normally formed eye sees within degrees of distinctness and 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

without blur we want for good art sound eyesight. It is 
well known that we through the eye realize the objective only 
through the experiences of life. All is flat, and the mind is 
in no realization of space except its powers are exercised 
through the sense of feeling. That is, what is objective to 
us is a response to the universal principle of truth. 

Some things touch one more than another, and loving 
what touches us agreeably and disliking what touches us dis- 
agreeably, we look more at what we love than what we do 
not love; hence he learns to paint first what he loves best, but 
our love for certain forms, tones, or things cause us grad- 
ually to tolerate other forms, and as connected with those we 
love through the alchemy of life in various ways, so that we 
tend eventually to ideas of harmonies in which parts are re- 
lated by the mind to an idea of unity of thought. From 
that unity of thought mind controls the eye to its own intent 
within the units of that idea ; consequently we learn to see 
in accord with ideas developed by the power of life, which also 
leads us through our own affections. Hence every one sees 
somewhat differently. 

The art of painting is the development of the human mind, 
and to deny its traditions is the sign of an art fool ; but to 
translate its traditions into new forms is the sign of a pro- 
gressive art mind full and independent in his own concepts 
of nature, but bound to the past as the source of his inspira- 
tion. Originality outside of this truth is childishness, ah^ 
its products absurd. The first great principle in art is 
unity representing directness of intent, the second is order 
representing cause, and the third is realization representing 
effect. 

When the savage draws his hieroglyphics for the informa- 
tion of his companions, cause and effect are sufficiently con- 

170 



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H 

o 



> 

i 

H 
CO 




LETTERS 

sidered in the intent ; all his art is united to an end acknowl- 
edged to be legitimate, and any power which sufficiently ren- 
ders the forms for recognition in that way would be good art 
to that end. When Raphael drew his Hampton cartoons 
his drawing, most of it great in the impression given of power 
to do, was amply sufficient to the end of the story, which 
impresses one directly here is great art. When Leighton 
painted the walls at Kensington the excellent workman so 
forgot the end in view that the story has to be hunted out, 
here is a work with an intent outside of itself as a use, and 
that intent was to show his skill, this is bad art, in which an 
impression is made upon the spectator involving an intent 
not in order with the one assured. The artist was not one 
with his subject; without inspiration he was in the sphere of 
twaddle. This is that very honest and highly respectable 
kind of humbug in the art world which we are apt to fall into 
more or less, against which the impression is a protest. 

I have tones done on the boards of the loft which I occupy 
here by a little darky whom I employ to wash brushes and so 
forth which are very tony. In fact, give me the same im- 
pression that did the first Monet it was my luck to see. His 
had a little more white in it, but the style was about the 
same. Now, however, Monet decorated an impressionless 
plane with a dab of paint apparently in childlike imitation of 
trees, houses, and so forth without substance.* Since the 
beginning "The Art of the Future," as it is called, has de- 
veloped in a great variety of impressionists whose works I 
have not seen, as I am not interested in painters who find it 
necessary to label themselves. I admire the robust ideas of 
Corbet, but not his realism ; that was his curse. It appears 
as though the Impressionists were imbued with the idea to 
divest painting of all mental attributes and, overleaping the 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

traveled road which art has created by hard labor, by plas- 
tering over and presenting us with the original pancake of 
visual imbecility, the childlike naivet6 of unexpressed vision. 

Later, while discussing the subject of Impressions, 
he said: 

I am seventy years of age, and the whole study of my life 
has been to find out what it is that is in myself. What is 
this thing we call life and how does it operate? Upon these 
questions my ideas have become clearer and clearer, and what 
I hold is that the Creator never makes two things alike or 
any two men alike. Every man has a different impression 
of what he sees, and that impression constitutes feeling, and 
every man has a different feeling. 

Now there has sprung up a new school, a mere passing fad, 
called Impressionism, the followers of which pretend to study 
from nature and paint it as it is. All these sorts of things 
I am down on. I will have nothing to do with them. They 
are shams. 

The fact came to my mind in the beginning of my career. . 
I would sit down before nature, and under the impulse of a 
sympathetic feeling put something on canvas more or less 
like what I was aiming at. It would not be a correct por- 
trait of the scene, perhaps, but it would have a charm. Cer- 
tain artists and certain Philistines would see that and would 
say: "Yes, there is a certain charm about it, but did you 
paint it outdoors? If so, you could not have seen it this 
and that and the other." I could not deny it, because I then 
thought we saw physically and with the physical eye alone. 
Then I went to work again and painted what I thought I saw, 
calling on my memory to supply missing details. The result 
was that the picture had no charm; nothing about it was 



LETTERS 

beautiful. What was the reason? When I tried to do my 
duty and paint faithfully I did n't get much ; when I did n't 
care so much for duty I got something more or less admi- 
rable. As I went on I began to see little by little that my 
feeling was governed by a certain principle that I did not 
then understand as such. 

But these are merely scientific formulae. Every artist 
must, after all, depend on his feeling, and what I have devoted 
myself to is to try to find out the law of the unit ; that is, of 
impression. Landscape is a continued repetition of the same 
thing in a different form and in a different feeling. When 
we go outdoors our minds are overloaded; we do not know 
where to go to work. You can only achieve something if you 
have an ambition so powerful as to forget yourself, or if you 
are up in the science of your art. If a man can be an eter- 
nal God when he is outside, then he is all right ; if not, he 
must fall back on science. 

The worst of it is that all thinkers are apt to become dog- 
matic, and every dogma fails because it does not give you the 
other side. The same is true of all things art, religion, and 
everything else. You must find a third as your standpoint 
of reason. That is how I came to work in the science of 
geometry, which is the only abstract truth, the diversion of 
the art of consciousness and so on, which I have already men- 
tioned. 

And no one can conceive the mental struggles and tor- 
ment I went through before I could master the whole thing. 
I knew the principle was true, but it would not work right. 
I had constantly to violate my principle to get in my feeling. 
This was my third. I found I was right, and went on in 
perfect confidence, and I have my understanding under per- 
fect control, except when I overwork myself, when I am liable 
to get wriggly, like anybody else. Then I shut myself up 

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LIFE, ART, AKD LETTERS 

with my books and write, applying the principles I have 
found true in art to pure reasoning on the subject of the- 
ology. That is what you see in my pictures, that is the 
feeling and the sentiment. I have always had it, but have 
not always understood the principles which govern it. 

When I grow weary of painting I take to theology. That 
is the only thing except art which interests me. In my 
theory, in fact, they are very closely connected. That is, 
you may say it is theology, but it has resolved itself grad- 
ually into a scientific form, and that is the development 
which has become so very interesting to me. 



CHAPTER X 

SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

NOT until he was past middle life did pros- 
perity smile upon George Inness, but those 
years of devotion to ideals were to be re- 
warded, and in a way that few are privileged to expe- 
rience; the full and complete recognition of his genius. 
In the summer of 1878 we went to Montclair, New 
Jersey, where father rented a little cottage on Grove 
Street. There we used two little outhouses on the 
place for studios. Up to this time, and in fact for 
several years after, the selling of pictures was more or 
less desultory. But when Mr. Roswell-Sinith pur- 
chased a large canvas of Mount Washington for five 
thousand dollars, Pop was for the time being relieved 
of financial stress and was enabled to paint unham- 
pered for a while. Mr. Roswell-Smith, who later be- 
came my father-in-law, was the founder of "The Cen- 
tury Magazine," and through his interest my fa- 
ther's career received a great impetus. Later, Pop 
being dissatisfied with the Mount Washington canvas, 
exchanged it for the now famous Niagara, which was 
painted under rather amusing circumstances. Pop 

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LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

had been out to see the falls, and he became so fired 
with an inspiration to paint it that he rushed to the 
studio of his old friend Selsted, in Buffalo, and rous- 
ing him from his bed at an unholy hour, demanded 
studio, paints, canvas, and brushes, in fact, everything 
that he needed. 

"I must paint, Selsted," he said. "Quick ! I can't 
wait a minute; I must get my impression of the falls 
down right away." And poor Selsted, like all the 
rest of us, gave up everything, and was not allowed to 
use his studio or anything in it until the sketch was 
made, which I might add was taken from an imag- 
inary point in the middle of the rapids. The finished 
canvas was later painted in the studio in the old Uni- 
versity building on E. Washington Square. It is a 
large canvas and shows a cool crisp light as of the 
morning. The sky is delicate gray-blue, flecked with 
pink-tinged clouds. The distant hills are bedecked 
with buildings that flash and twinkle in the rosy light. 
The great curved horse shoe line cuts across the vision 
and holds one spellbound as he gazes on that mighty 
rush of green-lit water as it tumbles with crashing 
force and thunders over the titanic rocks, to rise again 
in a swirl of maddened fury, in defiance of the chasm 
far beneath. High above the rim an eagle soars and 
through the rising mist a rainbow glistens. 

Not long after the sale of the Mount Washington, 

178 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

Benjamin Constant, the great French portrait- 
painter, came to this country, and proved to be an im- 
portant factor in the establishment of my father's suc- 
cess and fame* He discovered in George Inness a 
master of art, and wonderful was the scene of those 
two great painters exclaiming and gesticulating* 
Neither could understand the words spoken by the 
other, but the picture is so vividly before me I shall 
never forget it. They were seated on the floor, 
sketches strewn about them, expressions of delight on 
their faces, hands going in every direction, punctuated 
with exclamations such as "Tres bien" "magnifique;" 
ff chef-d'oeuvre" and others. 

The outcome of it was that Constant took back to 
Paris a number of these sketches to show the French 
artists what had sprung up in America. He brought 
Inness to the attention of Bouissart-Vallidon & Com- 
pany, with the advice to buy all the Innesses they 
could get. 

The year after my father's death that is, in 1895 
the following article by Constant appeared in "The 
New York Times": 

When I came to this country for the first time in 1890 I 
had the pleasure and honor to form an acquaintance with 
George Inness, who received me at bis country house in a 
most charming manner, and showed me all the landscapes he 
had there on his easel- Some of these I see again to-day, 

179 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

after his lamented demise, and being urged by a friend to 
write a few lines, as I had previously done in 1890 in "The 
New York Times" about the exhibition of Mr. Richard H. 
Halsted's collection of Inness's work at the American Art 
Galleries, I am willing to act as a critic of art, provided 
painters may be allowed to write on painting. Perhaps I 
may be* permitted to do so, once in a while at any rate, if it 
be only to please a friend and myself. The moral and physi- 
cal personality of George Inness has made a lasting im- 
pression on my mind. He was naturally nervous, impres- 
sionable, sensitive to the richness of coloring, to its enamel, 
to its material as well as sensitive to the poetical and quick 
effects of nature. Living as he was in the very midst of 
the latter, looking about its grandeur, its marvels of light, 
he especially liked the evenings of autumn, the autumn of his 
native country. He brought out of it powerful works, full 
of emotion and painted in a rutilant color. He was always 
careful, however, to retain for all painting its special quali- 
ties of material and enamel, and never tried to put the essen- 
tial qualities of either pastel or coater colors into oil-paint- 
ing. Thus he was proceeding from Millet, Jules DuprS, 
and Rousseau, while preserving his original work. We al- 
ways proceed from the time in which we live, and the works 
which have impressed us at the beginning of our career ; but 
our personality comes out, however. Baudry and Chav- 
annes, in their decorative works, proceeded from the Italian 
masters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, although in 
a different degree; the English school of the beginning of 
the century had influence over Delacroix, A new art cannot 
be born in a day ; a whole century is hardly sufficient for it. 
But I must speak now of the works that I like best among Mr. 
Halsted's collection of Inness work. Number Seven would, 
if signed by Turner, Millet, or Corot, be worth ten thou- 

180 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

sand dollars and over. In my view it is equivalent to the best 
landscape ever painted by any great landscape-painter. No 
warm and stormy day in June has ever been felt better or 
expressed better. Nature has been sometimes seen as if it 
were asleep in a golden atmosphere, when there was no wind, 
but an oppressive air full of languor. The sun behind the 
clouds was not throwing any shade under the trees* Waters 
were still in the shallow rivers ; one could feel that not a single 
leaf was trembling. Nature was taking her afternoon's nap. 
Now, in my opinion, Inness, as I remember him, must have 
had such a feeling when he painted that magnificent piece of 
art, which is undoubtedly of the highest order. The color- 
ing of the green tones is positively delightful, for it may be 
said that no eye was ever more sensitive than Inness's to 
the richness of the green tones brought about by the summer 
light. This painting should be at the Metropolitan Museum 
of Art. Number Twenty is brother to number seven, and 
shows the same skill in coloring the strong light and storms 
of summer. The coloring of this souvenir of a storm in sum- 
mer is really exquisite. Turner has never brought together 
his remembrances of a day like this with more richness of 
material or a more observing mind. Number Three is a con- 
tinuation of a series that is a real apotheosis of the sun. 
Number Fifteen shows white, green tones in a gray, rainy 
sky, forerunner of a storm, which are enameled in a surpris- 
ingly artistic manner. The symphony of the green tones, 
supported and accompanied by the gray clouds, is masterly 
scored. Number Six is a good painting, and so is number 
Thirteen. These lines are but brief homage to true talent. 
When the time comes, and it will come sooner or later, to do 
full justice to George Inness, I shall be glad to have been one 
of the first, perhaps, who felt an artistic emotion in con- 
templating these paintings, which so clearly show the impres- 

183 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

sionality of a thorough artist, a lover of nature, and an exec- 
utor of rare merit. 

Some time previous to my father's meeting with 
Constant, Mr. Thomas B. Clarke had come into his 
life, and had become one of his closest friends and pa- 
trons, through whose persistent faith in Inness's work 
a number of other patrons were brought to him, 
among those who made extensive collections, Mr. 
George L Seney, Mr. Benjamin Altman, Mr. James 
W. Ellsworth, and Mr. Richard H. Halsted. So 
firm became the friendship with Mr. Clarke that my 
father finally induced him not only to advise him, but 
to take over the management of his pictures. So ex- 
cellent was his management and so far had Inness 
risen to fame that success and recognition came rap- 
idly. He now found himself in the full attainment of" 
a position of ease. For sixteen years, until his death, 
he sailed his bark through smooth waters. With the 
financial struggle over he retired from the world of 
trade and barter, and settled in Montclair, where he 
bought the old Mapes homestead on Grove Street. 
Here he built a studio and painted as he had long de- 
sired, unhampered by commercial and financial cares. 
But the end of his struggles did not mean the end of 
his usefulness. Far from it; for he painted up to the 
time of his death, and in the last few years of his life 
he developed a breadth and technic in his work which 

184 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

closely correspond to the breadth of his mental and 
spiritual unfolding. 

My father was the most modest and unassuming 
of men. His fame was spread abroad, to be sure, and 
wherever he went he was treated royally; but he re- 
mained to the day of his death the plain, simple- 
hearted great man that he was. To be made a lion of 
embarrassed him, and he did not like it; in fact, he saw 
no reason in it. He lived for his art, and was affected 
neither by praise nor criticism. The joy of self-ex- 
pression brought its own reward. My mother told 
me once, with a merry chuckle, of a visit she and Pop 
made to The Palmer House, Chicago. As I have 
said, mother held the purse, and was therefore to 
judge of just how far they could indulge in the luxury 
of the famous hostelry; so she engaged a room at a 
very moderate rate for such a hotel. Father, having 
discovered that Mr. Palmer had an office in the house, 
left his card for that gentleman at the desk. After 
registering, they were shown to their modest quarters, 
unpacked their bags, and prepared to make them- 
selves at home. A few moments later a bell-boy ap- 
peared to inform that a mistake had been made, and 
the room assigned to them was on another floor. 
Greatly annoyed at having to repack, my mother ex- 
pressed her opinion in no uncertain terms of the clerk 
who had made such a stupid mistake. 

185 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

However, they were moved, bag and baggage, to 
the first floor front, and found themselves ensconced 
in a magnificent suite of rooms. Father was im- 
mensely pleased, but mother, thinking the clerk's mis- 
take was assuming alarming proportions, now ex- 
pressed her mind more freely, and, remonstrating with 
the boy, insisted that they had engaged no such rooms 
and refused to stay in them. But the boy was equally 
insistent that he was only carrying out orders, and left 
them alone. 

"This is ridiculous," said my mother, "these rooms 
will cost us a fortune, and we must adjust this mistake 
immediately/' 

"Oh, well," protested Pop, "we can afford it for 
one night, and I should like to have the experience of 
feeling like a potentate." 

"No," insisted mother, and as she was about to leave 
the room to remedy the situation there was a knock at 
the door, and a boy entered, bearing baskets of beauti- 
ful fruit and flowers and a note from Mr. Palmer, 
saying that he would do himself the honor of calling 
upon them, and hoped that Mr. and Mrs. Inness 
would remain as his guests as long as they were in 
Chicago. 

They accepted Mr. Palmer's hospitality, and were 
treated so royally that even Pop wished for white 
gloves and a swallow-tail. 

186 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

In looking over some old letters I came across this 
one which tells the story in my father's own words. 
It is the property of Mr. Thomas B. Clarke, to whom 
the letter is addressed. 

PAILMEB HOUSE, CHICAGO, October 31, 1889 
My dear Mr. Clarice: 

Just as I was stepping into the carriage on Tuesday for 
the train I remembered that I had not paid my dues at the 
Century for the November term, and as I knew Hartley had 
no more ready money than he needed, I asked him to write to 
you. I find that I have neglected my own account until there 
is only about fourteen dollars to my credit, so I inclose my 
wife's check for the amount. 

On our arrival here we took a moderate board at seven 
dollars, which my wife thought would answer our purpose for 
the two or three days of our intended stay here. Thinking 
that Mr. Palmer had an office here, I called upon him as the 
first best thing to do. As soon as registrations were made, 
I found myself received with the greatest cordiality, and in 
a few moments we were occupying D. E. on the first floor 
front, with every convenience, and a pile of extra dinner- 
tickets for friends, and a couple of large vases of elegant 
fruit, enough to last us a week. Of course I had to accept 
what Mr. Palmer insisted was only a great pleasure to 
him* 

I then called upon Mr. Ellsworth, and then there was an- 
other insistence that we should at once make his house our 
home. Mr. Palmer insists that we shall stay here until Mon- 
day at least, so that I shall probably get no nearer the point 
of our destination before the middle of next week, probably 
Thursday. My necessary visit to the studio on Monday last 

189 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

upset me somewhat, but I am feeling a great deal better this 
morning, and I have no doubt but that I shall be all right in 
a day or two. 

I intended to write to you further about picture matters, 
but I will leave that for a few days when the ground will be 
further opened and I shall be in better condition. 

Yours truly, 

GEORGE INNESS. 

Because of my father's intolerant attitude of other 
people's opinions where his own work was concerned, 
he was continually getting into trouble, and but for 
Mr. Clarke's diplomatic handling of these rather awk- 
ward situations many of his patrons would have be- 
come totally estranged. One instance of this remains 
vividly in my mind. A New York gentleman bought 
a picture from my father that he admired greatly, say- 
ing that he would send for it the next day. He had 
hardly left the studio before Pop began to "tickle it 
up" a little to carry out a thought. He kept on "tick- 
ling it up" until the canvas was an entirely different 
picture, and one that, I regret to say, had lost rather 
than gained in the process of tickling. 

The next day the gentleman came to the studio to 
see his picture, and, finding it unrecognizable, insisted 
that this canvas was not his. 

"Yes, it is," replied Inness. "I have changed it 
just a little to give it snap." 

190 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

"Why, the picture 's ruined/' said the purchaser, 
"and I refuse to take it." 

"Very well," answered my father; "you couldn't 
have it now at any price. Your money cannot buy my 
art. I give you what I choose, and whether you like 
it or not is a matter of indifference to me. What 
right have you to tell me what you like or what you do 
not like? I am the only one capable of judging my 
own work. The picture is finer than it was ; it had no 
strength before." 

For all his blustering manner, dear old Pop knew 
that his patron was right and that the picture was 
ruined, and he knew that he had been a fool to touch 
it. But he had to do something to cover up his em- 
barrassment and chagrin, so he continued to throw 
all the blame on his innocent patron, who, he declared, 
would cut a better figure before a stock-broker's 
ticker than sitting there telling him how and when to 
paint. Justly indignant, the gentleman walked out 
of the studio and to his friend Clarke, who had orig- 
inally introduced him to Irmess, and to whom he told 
the whole story, declaring that he would never give 
to "that ranting fool" another chance to insult him. 
But Mr. Clarke, who understood and loved them both 
and would not see a break between them, said: 

"Never mind, old man. You know Inness well 
enough to know that he would not intentionally insult 

191 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

you for the world. He is in a high-strung, nervous 
condition, and is no doubt suffering this moment to 
think that he lost his temper and acted like a brute. 
I will just run around and see him." 

Upon entering the studio Clarke noticed imme- 
diately the nervous state my father was in, and was 
wise enough to sit quite still and not refer in any way 
to the episode which had occurred that morning. Fa- 
ther, ignoring his presence, kept right on painting. 
It happened to be the canvas in dispute. He was 
never disturbed by an audience; in fact, he rather liked 
one, because it gave him an opportunity to talk and 
to expound his theories. So after painting in silence 
for a while, he turned to Clarke and said: 

"I got in quite a muddle over this in trying to fix the 
sky. It lacked sparkle and interest. Sometimes, 
Clarke, it is hard to find just where the thing is wrong; 
it does n't seem to hitch. It may be in the sky or in 
the patch of light across the foreground; and then 
you will find that it is n't that at all, but the fault lies 
in the composition, and those trees in the right are out 
of place and mar the breadth and grandeur of the pic- 
ture. But then the misery of the thing is that you can 
never get back the thing you had before you touched 
it. Clarke, if I could only learn to leave a thing alone 
after I feel that I have what I want ! It has been the 
curse of my life, this changing and trying to carry a 

192 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

thing nearer to perfection. After all, we fire limited 
to paint. Maybe, after we get to heaven, we shall 
find some other medium with which to express our 
thoughts on canvas. I had this picture very fine, and 
then I knocked it all to pot. It 5 s the one our friend 
bought. He was in here this morning, and we had 
some words because I changed it. I tell you, Clarke, 
I shall have to keep these fellows out of here. You 
had better take the pictures to your rooms and let 
them see them there, for if you don't, I 'm afraid the 
canvases never will be done. Sometimes I almost 
wish I had another trade. But I 'm getting it now; 
this is going to be the greatest thing I have ever done. 
Don't you see how brilliant it is? The thing is real. 
I would rather starve to death than give up art." 

Mr. Clarke, who had come into the studio at a later 
stage of the evolution of the picture than had his 
friend, had been spared the shock of seeing it in the 
discouraging stage of transition in which, unfortu- 
nately, the gentleman had seen it, and had been justly 
disappointed. Through that marvelous ability which 
the master possessed the canvas had been brought back 
from utter failure to a composition even more beauti- 
ful than the original, and it was this that Clarke saw 
and pronounced good. 

"It is a wonderful picture, Inness," he said, "and 
that fellow is mighty lucky to own it." 

195 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

"Own it!" snapped my father, flaring up again at 
the thought of the disagreeable episode with his pa- 
tron. "He does not own it, and he cannot own it now 
at any price. I 'm through with him, and I don't 
want him to come here and bother me with my work." 

Clarke did not press the point, but a few days later 
succeeded in persuading his friend to forget the 
little unpleasantness that had occurred, and go with 
him to Inness's studio. When they arrived my father 
greeted them coldly. The picture was turned face to 
the wall, and nothing was said regarding it. Inness 
knew that the picture was good and was so pleased 
with it that he wanted above everything else to have 
them ask to see it, only his pride keeping him from 
bringing it out and saying, "There, that is the great- 
est thing I ever did." An abstract subject was in- 
troduced, however, on art in general which struck a 
responsive chord, and after a few moments of enthusi- 
asm in explaining some theory Inness forgot about his 
grievance and became himself again. Whereupon 
Clarke suggested that he show them the picture that 
their friend had purchased. 

"He has purchased no picture," said my father, 
coldly, "and he might just as well understand now 
that I claim the right to paint my pictures as I choose, 
and the fact that a man has purchased one does not de- 

196 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

prive me of the right to make any changes in it for the 
better that I like." 

A little smoothing down from Clarke, however, had 
the effect of oil on troubled waters, and Inness 
inwardly delighted, brought out the picture. When 
the patron saw it he was amazed at its beauty, and ex- 
claimed: 

"Mr. Inness, if you will let me have this canvas I 
will accede to your demands and allow you the right 
to change your pictures whenever you wish." 

"All right," laughed my father. "Since you see it 
in its proper light, I will deliver the canvas to you 
whenever you want it." 

The purchaser said he would send for it and left the 
room, to return in about five minutes with a man he 
had picked up on the street, and together they carried 
the canvas off in triumph* 

My father once agreed to send some pictures to the 
Paris Exposition, and later changed his mind, which 
brought forth some rather bitter criticism of Mr. 
Clarke for having influenced him against it, hinting 
at personal reasons on Clarke's part. The pictures 
were not sent, and the whole affair blew over, Clarke 
never knowing that Inness had taken any notice of 
it one way or the other until the following letter was 
discovered in an auction sale a few years ago. 

197 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

The letter was addressed to the editor of the New 
York "Herald," and is dated March 9, 1889, Mont- 
clair, N. J. 

Dear Sir: 

In your paper of the 8th inst. certain remarks are made 
concerning Mr. T. B. Clarke in which my name is mentioned. 

All I have to say is that as far as I am concerned Mr. 
Clarke has in no way influenced my action in this matter of 
exhibition. I have had friends urging me to exhibit to whose 
influence I did give way so far as to commence finishing sev- 
eral important works which had been lying for some time un- 
finished in my studio; but as I had really no heart in the 
matter, I could not find the requisite energy to do myself 
justice. Besides, money was before me to be earned, which 
I did not feel that I could afford to lose. 

As for the charge of the want of patriotism, I care about 
as much as I do for the wind of the wood. 

To the friends who have supported me am I alone respon- 
sible as an artist, and it is my proper business in this rela- 
tion to make their interest one with my own, and I am satis- 
fied that my interests are not to be served through the Art 
Commission. 

I am free to confess that I am greatly indebted to Mr. 
Thomas B. Clarke for his determined faith in my art, and 
his persistent efforts to find purchasers for my works ; and 
if art is of use and my reputation sound, then is T. B. Clarke 
deserving of gratitude from the public, and not of con- 
tumely. 

What Mr. Clarke has done for me through the extent of 
my ability to win success he has done for many others 
through the extent of their ability to win success. 

My art is not in its nature of a popular character, and 

198 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

had it not been for the generosity of Mr. Roswell Smith, Mr. 
George I. Seney, and Mr. B. Altman, together with the per- 
sistent efforts of Mr. Clarke, I should probably still be in 
the drag. 

Yours respectfully, 

GEORGE INNESS. 
To the editor of 

The New York "Herald." 

As I have said before, the development and unfold- 
ing of my father's nature in the latter years of his life 
were not limited to his art, and his activities did not 
confine themselves to painting. 

It was at this period of his life that he did most of 
his writing and research work along spiritual lines. 
In 1877 he wrote this letter to my sister, Mrs. Hart- 
ley, which shows the trend of his thought: 

NEW YORK, Feb. 13, 1877 
My dear Nellie: 

Although I have neglected to write to you as soon as you 
might have expected me to, the answer to your question will 
probably take so much paper that I will leave other mat- 
ters and commence with that. 

I perceive from your question that you are beginning to 
think, in fact that your spiritual faculties are beginning to 
unfold, and that you are now experiencing your first tempta- 
tion, which is to leave the ideas in which you have been edu- 
cated because you fear that they may disturb you in the en- 
joyment of your natural desires. 

Every individual man or woman born into this world is an 
offshoot of that Infinite Mind or Spirit which we call God. 

199 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

God creates in us sensation, and through it we are made con- 
scious of the world we live in. A world which we eventually 
find to be a continual changing state, but a state which 
forms the basis of all our knowledges. This state is con- 
tinually changing because our spirits individualized here, or 
born, created as distinct from the Infinite, gradually re- 
cede from natural surroundings into what each one even- 
tually becomes, viz., the embodiment of his or her own love or 
desires. Now, as your own love or desire eventually be- 
comes the center from which all your activities must flow, 
it behooves you to see that your love or what you desire is 
rational and not the effect of a mere natural impulse, which 
may be one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow, thus 
disturbing the orderly centralizing of your spirit to a state 
of happiness. Now, the center of all life is the Lord him- 
self, the mystery of whose existence is the mystery of our 
own, and which will gradually unfold itself to us as we learn 
to subject our natural impulses to ideas of use and make 
them eventually our delight and the consequent center of 
our spirit life, which then becomes one with the Lord Him- 
self. This unfolding of intelligence in us takes place in 
varying degrees to eternity, and is a great source of happi- 
ness or of unhappiness, as we are obedient or disobedient to 
the truth which we know; for this truth becomes in us the 
voice of conscience, which cannot be disobeyed with im- 
punity. Now, what the spirit sees is not the truth, but only 
an appearance of truth. For instance, we say the sun rises 
and the sun sets, but this is not true except as an appear- 
ance, and so it is with every fact of the natural world. The 
truth is the Lord Himself, Who creates and controls all 
which is thereby made to appear to us. This truth reveals 
itself as from mind to mind, and is from the beginning one 
God, whose children we all are. God first reveals Himself 

200 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

to the innocent mind as command which it is impossible to 
disobey and live. Next to the intellect as truth that it may 
become rational or act in the order of use which is the 
preservation of innocence. Third to the will as good or as 
a power conjoining or making one the innocence of pure af- 
fection and the operation of the intellect creating in His 
children an eternally increasing state of happiness. Now, 
we fall from innocence when we indulge the senses and ac- 
cept their evidence as truth to guide us to happiness. When 
the truth is that the gratification of the senses becomes more 
difficult and eventually impossible as the body becomes aged, 
and that those spirits who indulge them and are led by their 
allurements become dull, miserable, and wretched for the 
want of life God. Consequently the truth is, thou shalt 
love the Lord. This is the command which innocence ac- 
cepts as its guide and its savior, and it becomes its protection 
against the allurements of the senses. 

Now, the Bible is the word of God or the truth of life in 
its intellectual form, and by obedience to its commands we 
become recipients of life itself as an inflowing principle of 
goodness uniting all our thoughts to innocent desires, 
thereby creating in us a love of the highest and most beau- 
tiful uses, which is to extend the Lord's love, which is har- 
mony itself, throughout the world we live in. Thus we be- 
come spheres of what we are of innocence, truth, and good- 
ness, seen by angels as spheres of the love and wisdom of 
God. If you would have this life, read the Word and obey 
the commandments. If you find yourself at fault, look to 
the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the only example of this 
sphere of innocence, and Who is therefore within it and 
forms it. He will communicate to you the power to deny 
the allurements of -sense or your outer self and attain to the 
love of duty which is the road to heaven or the happiness of 

201 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

the inner life. This life is the eternal future ever present to 
all who love the Lord more than self. That is a life within 
the commandments rather than a life outside of or without 
them. 

That you may be obedient to the law of life, and thereby 
enter into the enjoyment of it, is the sincere wish of your 
affectionate father. 

I have known him to stay in bed as long as two or 
three days at a time, writing and thinking, and in an- 
swer to my solicitations in regard to his health he 
would reply: 

"Oh, no, not ill; only resting and having a good 
time. Don't have to dress, and I believe your mother 
has a new suit for me." 

Pop hated new clothes, as he hated the barber and 
the dentist, and mother, who had given his measure to 
the tailor, would order three or four suits at a time, 
and when she thought necessary, would remove the 
old ones after Pop had retired and put new ones in 
their place. But try as she might, Pop was ex- 
tremely careless. He never knew or cared what he 
looked like. 

When he was at the zenith of his career, with an in- 
come of perhaps twenty thousand dollars a year or 
more, a fortune in those days, he was walking one 
cold winter, morning down Broadway. He was clad 
in an old gray ulster. I am sure the buttons were 
on, for mother always looked to his grooming before 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

she let him out of the house; however, on this occa- 
sion the buttonhole on the skirt of the ulster was 
holding the button at the throat. It was cold 5 and 
father was crouched down in his collar. He was bent 
over, as he was very round-shouldered, when a man 
accosted him, and in a kindly voice said: 

"My man, would you like to earn a quarter of a 
dollar? 5 ' 

Father, who always appreciated a joke, even 
though the shaft were aimed at himself, replied: 

"Yes; I should like to earn a quarter of a dollar/ 5 

"Well," said the man, "I 'm a photographer, and I 
see that you have a very remarkable head. If you 
will come to my studio and let me take some pictures 
of you, I will give you twenty-five cents/' 

"No," replied Pop, "I don't think I wiU go. You 
photographers generally have your shops at the top 
of the house, and I ain pretty short of wind." 

"It 's only four flights up," urged the photogra- 
pher, "and it 's just around the corner. We will take 
it as slowly as you wish." 

So father agreed, and followed his new-found bene- 
factor to the top of the building. He was then 
placed in a chair, and the clamps adjusted behind his 
head. The photographer took several shots, and then 
said: 

"Thank you very much. Here is your money* 

205 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

Now let me give you a word of advice. You can do 
better than you are now doing. As I have remarked, 
you have a very remarkable head, and if you will go 
among the artists, there is a studio building on Tenth 
Street, and knock on any door. I'm pretty sure 
you can do better for yourself than you are now do- 
ing." 

"I don't know about that," said my father. "I 
don't like artists ; I Ve had experience with them be- 
fore." 

"Oh, so you are a model, then?" 

"No, I 'm not a model, but I Ve used models." 

"That 's interesting. Then you are an artist?" 

"Well, I suppose so. I don't know that I can lay 
claim to the title of artist, but I paint for a living." 

"Why, that 's very interesting. Do you exhibit?" 

"Yes, oh, yes, I exhibit." 

"And," continued the photographer, "may I ask 
where?" 

"Anywhere that I can get the chance; The 
Academy of Design, Chicago, Philadelphia, London, 
Paris, and different towns; in fact, anywhere where I 
think I might be able to sell a~ picture." 

"Why," said the photographer, condescendingly, 
"I know all the artists; but I surely don't know you. 
Who are you? What is your name?" 

"My name is Inness." 

206 



SUCCESS AND RECOGNITION 

"Not George Inness?" 

"That 's my name/' 

"George Inness, the landscape-painter Inness?" 

"Well," replied my father, "that 's my name, and I 
paint landscapes/' 

"My dear sir, come into this room a moment." And 
as they entered, the photographer pointed to a small 
canvas on the wall, among many others. "Who 
painted this picture?" he asked. 

"I did," was Pop's reply. 

Then he grasped my father by the hand and said: 

"Mr. Inness, I have long wanted to meet you. 
There ? s no man in your profession that I admire so 
much. And say, Mr. Inness, give me back that 
twenty-five cents." 

"Never," chuckled my father; "but if you will come 
downstairs, 1 11 blow you to a drink." At this 
time my father also had a studio on Fifty-fifth 
Street, New York, where things were very lively. 
Pictures were being sold at a rapid rate, and art in 
general under his pioneering had received a tre- 
mendous impetus. The younger men were return- 
ing from abroad. New ideas and new men had 
sprung up around him, and there were plenty of fel- 
low-artists for Pop to worry and delight. . 

We had great difficulty in making my father sign 
his pictures. He was greatly opposed to it, saying 

207 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

that a work of art was a work of art, no matter who 
signed it, or if it were not signed at all. 

There are many spurious Innesses on the market 
to-day. Every year I am shown canvases which are 
"known to be" Innesses that my father never saw. 

A man once came to me with a small canvas and 
declared that he had an Inness, that there was abso- 
lutely no question as to its authenticity and that he 
considered it one of George Inness's masterpieces. 

I examined the canvas carefully, and turning 
to the gentleman, said: "You are possibly aware that 
my father believed in the doctrines of Emanuel Swe- 
denborg, which teach that when we leave this earthly 
life we enter a spiritual life which enables us to con- 
tinue the same pursuits that we have followed upon 
this earth, only in a higher and more exalted state. 
This doctrine my father taught me, and I believed it, 
but am rather skeptical now, for this picture which 
must have been painted in the spirit world is decidedly 
inferior to the work my father did on earth." 

"Why, what do you mean?" he questioned eagerly. 

"Just take a look at the signature and date, and 
you will see that it was painted in 1896. Now, as 
George Inness died in '94, it must have been painted 
in the spirit world, and is certainly not worthy of 
the master." 



208 



i 



CHAPTER XI 

THE PASSING OF GEOBGE INNESS 

"N 1894 my father's health began to break, and 
his physicians recommended a trip abroad. He 
and my mother sailed to Scotland and went to 
the little town of the Bridge-of- Allan, where for a 
time his health seemed to improve and to regain its 
usual vigor. 

Late on the afternoon of August 3 he suggested 
to my mother that they take a drive, and that while 
she was dressing he would stroll about and look at 
the sunset. He went out to a point where he could 
best see the flaming sky, which was unusually beau- 
tiful that evening. A sunset had always moved him 
to the deepest emotions, and as he gazed he was filled 
with an ecstasy too profound, a pain too exquisite, for 
the frail earthly body. Just as the big red ball went 
down below the horizon he threw his hands into the 
air and exclaimed, "My God! oh, how beautiful!" and 
fell stricken to the ground. 

A lad who was standing near by rushed to him 
and said: 

"Are ye in liquor, mon?" 

209 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

"No," gasped my father; "I am dying. Take me 
up-stairs to my wife." In a few moments he passed 
away in the arms of the woman he loved better than 
any one else in the world, and on to those realms of 
transcendent beauty of which he had dreamed, where 
sunsets are painted without paint. 

When my father's body was brought back from 
Scotland it was placed in state in the Academy of 
Design, and the funeral was held in those rooms, an 
honor bestowed on only a few of the elect. It is true 
that in life the academy was slow to acknowledge 
George Inness, fifteen years elapsing between his 
election as Associate and his election as full Aca- 
demician, the latter occurring in 1868. But when 
he was recognized, it was with full and complete rec- 
ognition. 

As I read over the press-notices of my father's fun- 
eral, and review the hundreds of clippings cut from 
every paper in the country, for even the small and 
unknown papers wrote of his death, and in the larger 
cities extra papers were sold on the streets telling of 
the death of the great American painter and mourn- 
ing his loss, I feel that I must quote directly from 
them. 

On August 24, 1894, the New York "Times" pub- 
lished the following article: 

Inness, to whom a Hellenic people would have raised 

210 



THE PASSING OF GEORGE INNESS 

statues, received yesterday the most delicately impressive 
homage that the modern world can pay. 

He had been great enough to deserve the name of artist, 
which is grander than everything, and the members of the 
Academy of Design, their friends and the representatives of 
the larger class, who, hopeless of emulating him, at least 
tried to understand his work, were united in the services held 
in the rooms, where his personality had, for a quarter of a 
century, expressed its admirable distinction in imperishable 
paintings. 

Strength and implacable serenity had been easily read 
in life in the expression of his face, vigorously modeled, 
and the eye of which were profound and mystic, while the 
forehead, pure as the entablature of a Greek temple, was 
radiant with interior light. 

Yet he had known the envy of rivals, the hatred of fools, 
cold indifference, the suffering of those he loved, atrociously 
mingled with fever of creative fervor, and all the misfor- 
tunes, accidents, ridiculous annoyances and crimes of fate 
allied in perpetual vexation against the genius of man. 

In the artistic circle of which his mortal envelope was the 
center yesterday, Inness's long baptism of labor and pain 
could not be realized. There were impulsive thoughts only 
of the morning landscapes, tender, vaporous, ideal, where 
leaves imperceptibly tremble in a soft undecided light and ' 
enchanting visions in the foliage furtively glance at dark 
fountains faintly whitening; of evening landscapes, inflamed 
from skies where walls and citadels crumble into melting 
gold ; of heights that Seraphita climbed, and of all the rhap- 
sodies of epic poems which Inness impressed for Americans in 
accurate records of their country's widely magnificent nat- 
ural scenery. 

Phidias himself, who knew the secrets of his art, could not 

211 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

have sculptured the figure of an imitator, and to make a 
camp follower none could think of the immortal Indra on 
his chariot, drawn by horses of azure, or of Zeus, Clarious or 
Tegeus, at once god of ether and god of light. None could 
think yesterday of Inness at any period of his career van- 
quished or feeble, since he is splendidly triumphant in his 
art, and doubtless already perceives with new senses, as he 
expected in his Swedenborgian confidence, the peaceful glory 
of beauty and the silent music of the stars* He was the 
very reverse of an imitator, and his long years of suffering 
in the most hideous of mundane circles, the one where great 
works are received in mute unconcern, were his penalty 
for being one of the greatest artists. None could think 
yesterday that there was humiliation for the public in the 
fact that wealth had not flown into Inness's studio at once, 
as he deserved, like metal in the streets after the burning of 
Corinth. But the reflection comes inevitably now and 
makes more dreadful than chance of error in over-apprecia- 
tion, the fault of not recognizing genius at its first appear- 
ance. 

The ceremony at the Academy of Design was simpler than 
any impression which its relation may convey, Inness dis- 
dained glory even more than money. He has obtained glory 
more solid, more durable and more universal than many 
great men of his time. But he never courted it or made 
the slightest sacrifices in its favor. Without hoping for 
success, he tried to satisfy his refined instinct for the beau- 
tiful^/He asked of color to express the soul, the thought, 
tBe mysterious attitude of the intimate being which is in 
nature, and he succeeded by force of passionate endeavor. 
Pompousness did not illuminate his life and would not have 
fitted his obsequies. 

The casket of silver and vdve? was covered with palm 

212 



THE PASSING OF GEORGE INNESS 

leaves and wreaths of white roses, ivy and lilies of the 
valley. The ribbons were violet. On a pedestal the fine 
bronze bust of Inness by Hartley stood at the foot of the 
casket, and its eyes had a life-like glance. The paintings 
shone in their usual places on the walls, in all their gaiety. 
Only the balustrade at the stairs was draped in black. The 
flag was flying at half mast. The air in the room had the 
perfume of flowers, not of incense, and the minister, solemn 
but not grave, spoke in pleasantly modulated tones of irre- 
pressible conviction. He stood in the arch separating the 
council room from the long reception room, in front of the 
casket that tall palmetto leaves covered. Without a gesture, 
his head a little inclined, he told the interpretations of the 
Arcana Ccelestia, the state of death which is changed to a 
higher life, the eternal humanity of the Father, the neces- 
sity of works for salvation, that faith alone may not pro- 
cure, and the state of the spiritual world, which has the same 
relation to the natural world as the soul to the body. Those 
who knew Inness knew how impatient of contradiction he 
was in his religious faith. He talked for hours of the 
Swedish philosopher. 

Neither by geometrical nor physical nor metaphysical 
principles had Swedenborg succeeded in reaching and 
grasping the infinite aiid the spiritual, or in elucidating their 
relation to man and man's organism, though he had caught 
glimpses of facts and method which he thought only lacked 
confirmation and development. He was a man who won 
respect, confidence and love of all who came in contact with 
him. Though people might disbelieve in his visions, they 
feared to ridicule them in his presence. 

His theosophic system was founded on the point of view 
that God must be regarded as the divine man. His essence 
is infinite love. His manifestation, form or body is infinite 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

wisdom. "Divine love is the self-subsisting life of the uni- 
verse," Inness quoted. From God emanates a divine sphere 
which appears in the spiritual world as a sun, and from the 
spiritual sun again proceeds the sun of the natural world. 
... In God there are three infinite and uncreated degrees of 
being, and in many and all things corresponding three de- 
grees, finite and created. They are love, wisdom, use; or 
end, cause and effect. The final ends of all things are in 
the Divine mind, the causes of all things in the spiritual 
world, and their effects in the natural world. . . ." 

The minister's eloquence had tenderness, not enthusiasm, 
and it came to an end in a prayer and benediction of gentle, 
crystal clearness. 

There was an artistic inclination in his well made phrases 
when he spoke of Inness's conception of nature as all sym- 
bolical, and of his art to reproduce this, not in the crude 
forms of outward expression that the common mind may 
easily grasp, but in spiritual suggestions. 

An artist might not have expressed better a sense of the 
aristocracy of art, the exaltation of the best in every- 
thing which it signifies and the religious inspiration which it 
demands^/since genius is not logical, has only perception, 
an3 '"attains its highest flight in pure ecstasy. The senti- 
ment sent a thrill of appreciation in the audience of artists 
that nothing more sensually expressive might have produced. 

They sat on sofas, chairs and benches of the reception 
room and formed a compact crowd, prolonged into a tall 
black mass, in the vestibule. They sat around members of 
the family in the council room, bright as the cool sacristies 
of the ancient monasteries. 

The light that came through the small colored window- 
panes made the scene resplendent with an undefinable grace. 
There was not an unimpressed person among the painters, 

216 



THE PASSING OF GEORGE INNESS 

poets and sculptors there, to whom art itself is a religion in- 
tolerant and jealous. There were only thoughts, minds and 
conceptions heartily united in Inness's vision of the ladder of 
men and angels, the highest line of which disappears in 
pure sidereal light, and in their own vision of long lines of 
artists in the front rank of which stands Inness. 

The sermon and eulogy of the Rev. Dr. J. C. Ager were 
listened to with the deepest attention. He was for many 
years the personal, close and intimate friend of George In- 
ness, and stood closer to him than any other man, A man 
of artistic instinct, there was always a bond of the closest 
sympathy and interest between Pastor Ager and Painter 
Inness. This much the audience, especially the artists, 
knew, and the eulogy, coming from such a source, possessed 
a peculiar significance and interest for the hearers. 

The Rev. Dr. Ager prefaced his personal remarks by a 
series of running quotations from the Bible to point and 
enforce the Swedenborgian doctrine of the hereafter. 

"This that we call death," said he, "is not death. It is 
but the entrance to another state. Here in this life, on 
this world, we develop only the primary faculties of life. 
This is our initial stage. Here we begin to open our facul- 
ties. Here on this earth we have the opportunity to make 
a complete choice between good and evil. Death sets us 
free from the conditions of this life and sends us into thfc 
future life, which lies alongside this. There we will be no 
more subject to the laws of space and time.* 5 The minis- 
ter closed his Bible. 

"This was in substance," he continued, looking upward 
with folded arms, "the religious faith of this brother, who 
has passed on into the higher life. If his voice could be 
now heard he would emphasize the doctrines which I have 
stated. 

S17 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

"It is hardly possible for me to deal with the professional 
character and position of George Inness. I believe, with 
many artists, that his fame will be a lasting one, and has not 
yet by any means reached its limit. It was my lot to know 
him at the somewhat critical point of his life when he was 
drifting away from every definite belief, and had just begun 
to find in the writings of Swedenborg a solution of his diffi- 
culties. 

"Those of you who knew George Inness knew how in- 
tense a man he was. That word 'intense' perhaps better 
describes him than any word in the language. He was an 
intense man. He was a genuine man. He was a true genius. 
He had little sympathy with those who did not share his 
beliefs. Perhaps I should not say sympathy, but certainly 
no sense of companionship. To many, I know, he seemed 
ungenial, cold. But those who knew him well understand 
the reason for this opinion of him. 

"His opinions, beliefs, convictions were everything to him. 
If he had a conviction, that conviction was the truth, sim- 
ply because he saw it, and not because he arrived at a con- 
viction by any cold and formal process of reasoning or logic. 
This intuitive perception of truth is the characteristic of 
genius. That is the way George Inness reached his con- 
clusions. In Swedenborg George Inness found the basis 
for his theory of art. He found there the true solution for 
all the problems of expression. To him all nature was 
symbolic full of spiritual meaning. He prized nothing in 
nature that did not stand for something. That was the 
secret of his theory of art. He cared for no picture that 
did not tell a story ; not necessarily to common minds by this 
kind of symbolism, but telling a story to the feelings which 
it suggested, and to the thought to which it gave expression. 

"This philosophy of art, as some of you know, was im- 

218 



THE PASSING OF GEORGE INNESS 

measurably dear to George Inness. Out of it all his pic- 
tures sprang. He was as genuine in his own life as he was 
in everything else. In religion he was as intense as he 
was in art, and as dogmatic. But with all of his intensity 
of feeling and purpose he had the gentleness of a woman. 

"We do not know what the rest of the world will think 
of George Inness, now that he has gone, but we who knew 
him know that that other life into which he has gone will 
not be to him one of inactivity. All his powers will find there 
a more active development. You who knew him know that 
he was sometimes impatient of his own limitations. Often 
he was lost in fits of despondency because of what he con- 
sidered to be his lack of success. In the life to which he 
has gone there will be no limitations of his genius. 5 ' 

In the absence of Thomas W. Wood, the president of 
the National Academy of Design, who is in Europe, the 
memorial services were presided over by H. W. Robbins, the 
vice-president. Notwithstanding the short notice which 
was given of the service and despite the fact that this is 
the season when artists are scattered over almost the whole 
globe, gathering material for their canvases, there was a 
large attendance at the services. Some of those who were 
there traveled many miles to the city to pay their last 
tribute of love and esteem to the memory of the great Amer- 
ican painter. 

The winter following the death of George Inness 
a memorial exhibition was held in New York, of 
which the following gives an account: 

"The galleries of the American Fine Arts Society were 
well filled last evening when the first view of the collection 
of paintings by the late George Inness was given. The 

219 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

paintings were hung in the three large rooms. An orchestra 
furnished music from eight o'clock until nine, when Parke 
Godwin made an address. 

Mr. Godwin spoke in the north gallery to four or five 
hundred people. His address was mainly eulogistic of 
Mr. Inness, and although he talked for three quarters of 
an hour, the interest of his listeners never flagged. Mr. 
Godwin was frequently applauded when he made very elo- 
quent tributes to the genius of the great painter. He told 
of the many adversities Mr. Inness had been subjected to, 
and compared him to other great painters who had tri- 
umphed over hardship early in their careers. 

"But adversities are not always hindrances, 5 * said Mr. 
Godwin. "Let us look for an instant at the flowers of the 
field the yellow violet and the lily, which are nurtured 
among innumerable difficulties, and yet are among the fairest 
of flowers. The English primrose is an example. It is the 
most delicate, and yet perhaps frailly beautiful, of all 
flowers, and yet, as the poet says, it is 

"Nursed in the whirling storms, 
And cradled in the winds." 

Then he referred to the hardships and triumphs of Turner, 
Keats and Burns. "Inness, 35 Mr. Godwin said, "was met 
at the beginning of his career by a dire want of educational 
opportunities and also by want of an audience. At the 
outset he was hindered, for art received no recognition or 
encouragement in this country at that time. When I came 
here sixty years ago there were only two academies of de- 
sign in the country; one here and one in Philadelphia. 
There were no students leagues or other art societies. You 
scarcely know the public's indifference to the fine arts in 
those times. What Inness received to aid him in his life 

220 



THE PASSING OF GEORGE INNESS 

profession he received only in the studio of a genial French- 
man. Iiiness had to work his way against the greatest odds. 

"In his early days artists in this country said that his 
familiarity with foreign painters would injure his original- 
ity and detract somewhat from the freshness of a purely 
American painter. They might as well have said that a 
man of letters should not read books." 

The speaker went on to compare George Inness to for- 
eign painters, showing that although possibly he had been 
influenced slightly by the styles of many of them, he stood 
alone and original. Mr. Godwin spoke of the likeness of 
Inness's foliage to that of certain French painters and com- 
pared his manner of depicting woodlands to that of Rous- 
seau. In closing Mr. Godwin said: 

"You could take two or three of the pictures from these 
walls, show them to any expert critic, asking him by whom 
they were painted, and be sure of his answer. They would 
be known from among hundreds. No one but George Inness 
could have painted them. 

"Joshua Reynolds, when complimented on one of his fam- 
ous paintings, said, 'there are eight or ten pictures on 
that one canvas. 5 And yet I am told that one of the sheets 
of canvas in this gallery contains twenty-six pictures. The 
secret of .George Inness's success was that he was never sat- 
isfied. He ever strove for something that was above, be- 
yond and better. 5 * 

In the description of "Florida Morning/' which 
appeared in the Boston "Transcript," on March 19, 
1897, Mr. Walter Church describes most admirably 
the real Inness through the description of one of his 
pictures. The article is entitled "George Inness, the 
color poet." He said: 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

To some art lovers the most attractive picture in the 
Jordan gallery is the "Florida Morning" of George Inness. 
He was America's greatest landscape painter a student 
worker whose native sweetness was not spoiled by any 
school* He was great enough to choose the good wherever 
found and yet remain true to himself, because he himself 
was true* 

He was as tender as Corot, as sincere as Rousseau. Du- 
pre was not more intense, nor Diaz more expansive. One of 
his best lovers said, "Inness finds the Garden of Eden every- 
where.'* Sometimes he was so enthused by the spiritual that 
he seemed careless of externals, at least to those who dwell 
in the external. Inness was inspired by the chivalry of 
art; the genial soul hospitality that cherished frank com- 
radeship with all good, and by the very force of his ex- 
ample "He drove the money changers from the temple." 
Though it is said of his pictures that the last one you see 
always seems the best, yet his "Florida Morning" has a 
peculiar interest that no other picture can ever have. It 
was his last picture painted in 1894 not long before 
he went away to foreign lands, and then passed on to that 
higher life, for which he was fitted by the patient, loving, 
trusting work of his life with us here. It was the fare- 
well color-song of that mystic swan, whose coming brought 
blessing, and whose going away left no successor. 

Inness was ahead of his age in translating the "cabala" 
of nature and it is not strange that the keynote of his 
last picture was unique interpretation of divine motherhood. 

A mother follows her little child, whose outstretched arms 
and slanting form tell of her eager joy at the first sight of 
home* They have just come up out of the sinking shad- 
ows into the glory of the morning, and high on the tree-boles 
the sunlight has blazed the pathway to their journey's happy 



H 

w 




THE PASSING OF GEORGE INNESS 

end. The atmosphere is full of veiled visions of something 
sweet to come. It is the temperate zone flowering in the 
tropics. You recognize the beautiful place and yet you can- 
not remember where you ever saw it. The growing grasses 
nod to you, and you know they would "flatter your feet." 
Unseen orange blossoms throw you kisses of welcome. 
The trees are familiar friends and woo you to their 
inner temples, where they know you delight to go. The 
skies sympathize with you, and overshadowed by the divine 
spirit, promise you the rain that saves. You feel that 
the soul who evoked this vision was not content with the 
Ararat found after many days, and sought Zion, not in rest 
but in helpful work, while echoing the songs that Mother 
Nature sang. It is a painting full of pictures, all of which 
make melody. Strike your deepest chord on the piano, hold 
the keys and listen. Those three tones the holy trinity 
of sound multiply into a weird orchestral anthem which 
leads your soul among new delights. So it is with this matin, 
"Gloria in Excelsis." It is a picture to live with, for it will 
chord with every living mood, echo aU beautiful thoughts 
and endow you with a wealth of its own. Are you busy? 
Glance at its flowers, and know that the bees are working 
with you. Would you dream? The unseen hammock under 
that tree awaits you, and the flower-blessed air is full of 
unseen shapes of beauty. Do you weep? Those clouds are 
ready to weep with you and soften your grief into joy. 
Could you sing? Then join the wordless song in your soul 
to the ever varying overture of those colors. But when 
you would pray, you need only to read what Inness has 
written there and say, Amen. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE ART OF GEOEGE INNESS 

IN the preceding chapters I have given you the 
life and letters of George Inness, and any at- 
tempt on my part to write of his art seems futile, 
as so much has already been written on the subject 
by pens far more facile than mine. As I read over 
the many articles that have been written on my 
father's art, his aims, his theories, and his color, so 
beautifully expressed by Mr, Daingerfield and others, 
I find that these so thoroughly record my own feel- 
ings and understanding that I feel constrained to 
stop. On the other hand, knowing my father so in- 
timately, and living as I did for many years in the 
closest companionship with him, I feel that a review 
of his art would not go amiss here, and if I repeat 
the thoughts of those who have already written of 
Inness, I hope that I shall not be accused of plagia- 
rism. 

George Inness was in the highest sense of the word 
a colorist. By color I do not mean the daubing of 
bright pigments on canvas, yards and yards of which 
can be found in our public exhibitions of to-day, color 

226 



THE AKT OF GEORGE INNESS 

as expressed by our up-to-date painter, the one who 
scoffs at everything old fashioned. As my friend 
Thomas Moran said, "They seem to be trying to dis- 
cover a new way to paint." 

It would be belittling art too much for me to dwell 
on the self-styled "Cubist" or "Futurist," as they have 
no more place in art than any other obscene degen- 
erate, I mention them here only because the public 
crowded their exhibitions and men paid money for 
their disgusting display. 

George Inness never sought new ways to paint, he 
was ever striving to render nature as she is to one of 
pure thought and high ideals. He tried to interpret 
her, to tell the truth about her, to tell the world of her 
beauty, of her coquetry, and sometimes of her tragedy. 
He depicted fields and sky, trees, mountain-peaks, 
streams, and valleys, and the pranks that light and 
shade played upon her; and sometimes storms that 
hurled themselves upon the earth as though intent 
upon her destruction, and the sun that thrust away 
the fearsome clouds and clothed her in a glory of color 
such as few but George Inness could depict. 

Color to George Inness did not mean red, yellow, 
and blue, but a harmonious blending and arranging 
of these colors that would suggest light and air, heat 
and cold, a suggestion of the color that is more bril- 
liant than the colors themselves. We speak of his 

227 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

pictures as "intense in color." So they are, but not 
by gobs of pigment that make up the color sense of 
so many of our modern landscapists. I might give 
names and descriptions to illustrate, but it would not 
be discreet to turn critic and make comparisons further 
than to say that the stuff that is often paraded in our 
Fifth Avenue galleries and our exhibitions, with its 
distorted drawing and gobs of crude pigment, give 
one absolutely no sense of color, and to a man so 
sensitive to the truth and poetry of nature as my 
father was would seem a most horrible distortion. 

Color is not paint. A sense of color is obtained by 
arranging the three primary colors, red, yellow, and 
blue, so that they will make a harmony, and so blend- 
ing them that they will give a sense of light and 
warmth that is felt in nature. When it gives a bright 
vivid feeling we call it "color," when it gives an even 
subtle luminosity, as in Corot, we call it "tone/' 
These two combined give the very glory of nature. 
Quality is that indescribable something that permeates 
the whole tone of a picture and gives it the sense of 
fullness, depth, and completeness. To have a color- 
ful picture with quality of tone, the colors must be 
complimentary. A red must not jar against a blue; 
the blue and red must be toned to harmonize. One 
color coming against another will so change that color 
that it is hard to believe that it is the same pigment 

828 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

that was mixed on the palette. If one paints a tone 
of black and white, making a light gray sky, and 
then paints in white clouds against it, it will look gray, 
but if the clouds are given a pinkish tone, the sky 
will change from gray to blue. White paint never 
gives the sense of light. It must be modeled, so to 
speak, with other tones to give contrast, to express 
light. The white or whatever color used must be in 
contrast to the forms around it. If a picture is 
painted all in sunlight, and the colors are imitated as 
the artist thinks he sees them, the picture will not 
express light. It will be merely a hodgepodge of 
pigment and a mass of paint, as many Plein-air or 
flat-sunlight pictures are; but if forms are painted in 
in shadow, a contrast is Established, and if these 
shadow forms are kept fuU and permeated with the 
general tone and color of the picture, there is a pleas- 
ant harmony that lends beauty to the whole. 

Some artists have no tone or color sense, and their 
pictures, no matter how well done, are stupid and 
without charm. Some have a feeling for bright pig- 
ments without tone. These pictures are horrible and 
discordant. The tonal artist is delightful, and when 
he has this tonal sense combined with grace of form, 
as Corot had, he reaches a height which very few 
attain. Now, all this George Inness has, combined 
with the most vivid sense of brilliant color, which 

31 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

brings his canvases to those heights which none has 
surpassed* 

Take the "Autumn Oaks" in the Metropolitan 
Museum. Here we have a chance to revel in a wealth 
of color bright, vivid reds and blues and yellows, 
grays and greens. It is a wonderful composition, 
and as daring in its conception as it is beautiful in 
drawing and construction. The scene is the autumn 
of the year, when nature is changing all her robes 
and dons fantastic hues. Here the artist, with con- 
summate skill and knowledge, has let his fancy out 
and piled color upon color with a delight that takes 
him in the midst of what he loves. Was it done 
from nature? No. It could not be. It is done 
from art, which molds nature to its will and shows 
her hidden glory. 

In this little canvas Irmess strives to show the won- 
ders of an autumn scene. He shows us a clump of 
oaks all in red, and to accentuate this red and make 
it more intense, he puts a cool, green tree in front. 
The vivid green that is on the grassy slope he checks 
with a deep shadow in the foreground to concentrate 
the light, and then to give a new sensation, he dashes 
in some dark-green trees beyond. Fearing this note 
is too severe, he deftly thrusts a golden hickory be- 
tween them and the oak to bring us back to riot in 
the saturated color. .Then he takes us down below 

232 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

the hill to catch our breath and rest in meadows filled 
with placid light. 

You will find that in this picture Inness has painted 
very frankly. All the local color is put on full and 
free. The canvas has then been glazed, I should 
say, with some such tone as sienna, to give richness 
and depth to the colors; then he has painted on the 
lights again with opaque pigments of red, yellow and 
green to give firmness and intenseness to the lights. 
But he has left the glazed color in the shadows. That 
gives transparency and atmosphere. A shadow or 
dark hole is always transparent in nature, and one 
can look into it. If it were painted opaque, it would 
be like a patch of dark on the surface of the canvas, 
and would lack the sense of looking through it. 
Shadows always have a transparent quality, and light 
is always opaque, which gives the brilliancy. 

I was in an artist's studio one day when he showed 
me a portrait with a dark-gray background. "I can't 
make that go back/' he said. "What 's the matter?" 
The picture was dry, and I induced him to glaze the 
background over with a thin film of black. It low- 
ered the tone, to be sure, but it made it retire, and 
it gave the appearance of being seen through into 
space. He said: "I never heard of that before. 
It 's good.'* 

To paint a girl's blue dress, for instance, one might 

233 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

use blue and white with other tones, and model it up 
to show the folds; but the thing looks dull and flat. 
Then glaze it all over with cobalt and paint up the 
lights again, and it will have a life and sparkle that 
it never had before, 

I know that few artists paint in this way, but I 
am giving George Inness's method, which was also 
Titian's. I do not mean to say that all painting 
should be done in this way. There are many sub- 
jects that should be treated differently. A mural 
painting that is to be light in key and seen from a 
long distance should be painted boldly and opaquely 
to make it carry. I am speaking here only of Inness's 
pictures and of how he did them. His are easel pic- 
tures that must be examined closely to trace the deli- 
cate subtle tones that give the very breath of nature 
as felt by the poet mind that wrought them. 

Glance at "The Spring Blossoms," also in the 
Metropolitan Museum, a very wonderful canvas. It 
is Inness in another mood. He has left the wild riot 
of the autumn color to sit beneath the apple-tree and 
watch the blossoms as they tremble in the sleepy sun 
that is warming up the earth, and throws an opales- 
cent light on all about. See the delicacy of touch. 
He has been afraid to touch even the pencil-marks for 
fear of one harsh note that might disturb the blush 
and make the petals fall. 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

Now turn to that great piece of painting, "Evening 
at Medfield." See the willow-stumps that throw 
their arms out to the golden sky. All the rest is 
veiled in a luminous shadow form out of which a cow 
plods home to rest; and as we look we feel the twi- 
light fade, and turn away content. The day is done. 

You will find by looking closely at this picture that 
it has been painted on a clean white canvas, contrary 
to his usual method of painting and repainting. The 
colors of the landscape have been frotted, or scrubbed 
in, very thinly, the texture of the canvas being visible 
through the film of paint. The local color of the 
shadow is imitated by mixing greens with umber or 
some such color, and then with a delicate use of gray 
he traces out the forms of the stone wall, the trunks 
of trees, and the road that leads you over the bridge. 
The opaque gray, dragged over the under color, gives 
one the sense of different textures, and though the 
whole is nothing more than a wash, gives the feeling 
of solidity. Now, he paints in the sky, a golden yel- 
low, in an entirely different way. He lays the paint 
on thick and solid, and unless we know his process, 
we feel that it has no connection with the landscape. 
In other words, it is crude and disappointing. But 
when this is dry, he glazes it all over with raw sienna, 
which brings the sky into harmony with the rest of 
the picture and gives it a vibrant glow, and you have 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

before you a twilight sky that is brilliancy itself. 
Take "The Greenwood/' in my opinion one of the 
greatest examples of landscape-painting ever done, 
or shall we say nature painting? Though it is a 
superb composition, there is no pictorial prettiness in 
it. It is simply nature, outdoor nature pure and 
simple, a scene that few but Inness would select. 
There is nothing in this canvas to attract the buyer. 
I heard a dealer speak of it as a hard seller. Yes, 
a hard seller to the man whose art sense consists in 
picture-painting. "The Greenwood" is not picture- 
painting. It is nature, and grand, true nature. The 
very plainness of the subject makes its grandeur, 
and the breadth and simplicity of its treatment con- 
vey its wonder. You emerge from a wood. Every- 
thing is green green grass, green trees, green every- 
thing, except a patch of sky that appears under the 
trees at the left of the picture. This patch of sky is 
crisp and cool and makes you quicken your step, as 
it puts life and vigor into your lungs. And looking 
about, you feel it 's all outdoors and all your own, 
shared only with the girl who strolls through the wood 
to fetch the cows home from the pasture in the strip 
of light beyond. But she will pass and leave it all 
to you again. Herein lies one of the great charms 
of Inness. Where he introduces a figure, though it 
is only a dot of light and shade, a little speck of color, 

238 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

it moves and has a grace of form that only a great 
draftsman can give. 

Any one who knows drawing knows that George 
Inness's drawing is something to wonder at. It is 
not drawing of a line, but masses that give the im- 
pression of movement and form that give the feeling 
of the truth of nature. I have spoken of Inness as 
hating tricks pf hrush and palette-knife, and yet he 
had a most wonderful skill of technic. Notice how 
a bush or weed is introduced. It is not drawn to give 
it shape. It is simply there, and with a twist of the 
brush it takes on life and grace as it bends to the 
gentle breeze that blows through the wood. All 
these little forms in Inness's pictures have character 
and meaning. They are not little dabs of pigment 
to give strength only, or to break up the monotony 
of the foreground, but are living things that move and 
add so much to the wonder of outdoors when walking 
through the greenwood. 

Now I should like to show you the pictures in the 
private gallery of Mr. James W. Ellsworth, who has 
a dozen canvases which he bought through love of art, 
wherein lies their great value in his eyes. 

We enter a spacious room, the library, with its 
books and paneled oaken walls. Here and there is a 
vase of rare antiquity, with ancient carvings and many 
things that bring back glimpses of those days when 

39 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

Greece was in its glory. Here on these grand, but 
somber, walls are arranged the Inness pictures in ex- 
quisite taste. 

See this one, the "Trout-Brook," painted in 1891, a 
wood in spring. The light is getting low enough to 
cast long shadows; a huge tree-trunk cuts almost 
through the middle of the picture; a pool of water at 
its roots reflects the sun, which is peeping through the 
distant foliage, which in the limpid light is almost like 
a vapor. Beside the pool, which is fringed with fresh, 
young, vibrant green, there stands a girl in dark who 
is almost silhouetted against that marvelous, inde- 
scribable light which permeates the entire canvas. A 
little farther back I say back, because you can look 
into an Inness landscape the figures of a shepherd 
and his dog are guarding a flock of sheep that is pass- 
ing through the open space. But are they sheep? 
Well, never mind ; it is something moving through the 
shimmering light. Then let your fancy roam and 
paint the picture to your liking. For that it was cre- 
ated. This is not a picture: it is nature, a creation, 
and so wonderfully wrought that you are really there. 
Sitting by the brook, you let your fancy out, forget- 
ting all the troubles of the day, and bask in quiet 
peace with Inness in the soothing, mellow light that 
is saturating everything it touches on this fading day 
of spring. 

240 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

And now we swiftly change to another mood, and 
leave the languid, mellow spring twilight to look upon 
an angry, choppy sea, the spray of which dashes 
against the rocks of Normandy. The scene is at 
Etretat, and through the arched rocks you see an 
angry sun, the blood-red fury of which will soon be 
quenched behind the distant wave, and let the blue 
black clouds that are gathering in the west have sway 
and lash out their fury through the night. The 
fisher-boats come safely in. It bids fair for the mor- 
row. 

Now glance at this upright "Midsummer," a clump 
of oaks. How it fills you with a sense of grandeur! 
The form is majestic, and the big white clouds give 
its edge the keenness of a knife; but all is in such 
complete harmony of color and light and shade that 
it makes you feel great waves of rhythm, as of strains 
of music, a harmony that gives delight, no matter 
what the medium. This canvas was painted in 1892 
in the big broad stage of his art, the last stage. 

Here is a simple lowland dell surrounded by green 
trees. We find no strain in this composition, no at- 
tempt at picture-painting, but nature, pure nature, 
in midsummer. It shows a rock, some trunks of trees, 
one splashed with light, another dark and somber, 
and on that knoll something moving. It looks like 
two forms, one light, the other dark. What are they, 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

cattle or two lovers, perhaps, strolling through the 
wood? Shape them to your will; there is a lot of 
fancy when you are out with Inness. 

Now, this "Indian Summer," signed in 1891, is all 
in light of an autumn afternoon. The sun is behind 
you and illumines the forms of cattle and of men. 
The picture is full of the kind of life that speaks of 
human things. In the foreground is a running brook. 
Some cattle have just raised their heads, and, having 
slaked their thirst, will stroll back through this field 
of autumn green to join their comrades, resting un- 
derneath a group of noble elms and oaks, all bathed 
in reddish light. As you look, you see the figure of 
a boy, whose glance you follow to the distant trees 
that melt into the warm, delicious yapors of an In- 
dian summer day. 

Now turn to this one, an entirely different kind of 
picture. It was painted back in the fifties, and how 
different from the later ones! Still, it has the Inness 
breath in it. You would know it anywhere. Each 
leaf is painted on the tree; a herd of cattle is passing 
from a field to take the road that crosses on a bridge 
that leads to home, where, after their bursting udders 
have yielded up their store, they '11 lay them down to 
rest, content to know they are lending to the joy of 
life that is pictured everywhere. They are bathed in 
that triumphant light which years and years ago 

844 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

Henry Ward Beecher named "The Light Trium- 
phant," and prophesied the future of its painter. 

And now in contrast to this "Light Triumphant'* 
there is "The Shower on the Delaware River/' done in 
1891, that is also full of light, but fuU of light that 
permeates everything. The deep shadow of the fore- 
ground sparkles with reflected light that filters 
through the rain, throwing a bow across the sky. The 
man and cattle here in front halt to gaze with wonder 
on this inspiring sight. 

We have let our fancy run with Inness through 
the woods and fields, and now we come to this "Au- 
tumn Morning/' but we must stop because the ground 
is wet. With heads erect, we Ve wandered on ob- 
livious to everything but that glorious autumn sky and 
the big hickory, the top of which is blazing with a rosy 
light, standing in relief against an azure blue. Un- 
heeding, we find we have run our feet into a swamp, 
and must go back again. But wait. There is still 
another that we must see before we reluctantly turn 
away "The Home at Montelair." It was painted 
just behind the artist's house, where many a field of 
waving corn and many a green pasture dotted with 
sheep was painted. But now it is all in white; its 
winter blanket is spread over all, keeping the earth 
warm until the coming of spring. There is nothing 
startling in this great work of art, and yet you are 

45 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

filled with a sense of bigness, grandeur, and the very 
conviction of truth and nature. These are not pic- 
tures ; they are art. They are done with art, not paint. 
They are not mere representations of things or na- 
ture; they are the soul of the master as he takes us 
with him in spirit and teaches us of God's out-of-doors. 

George Inness never tried to deceive. His whole 
aim was to tell the truth that nature taught him. His 
great regret was that he was limited to paint. "If 
I could only paint it without paint!" was his lament. 

He has often said that his great ambition was to 
paint a picture that would so disguise his technic that 
one would wonder how it was done. To make a fold 
of a dress with one sweep of the brush or a cloud by 
a wipe of the thumb was no virtue in his eyes. The 
dress should look real, and the cloud should float in 
the atmosphere. No matter how it was done, and 
the further it was removed from the suggestion of 
the brush, the greater the work of art. No; there 
was none of the mountebank in Inness. Everything 
he knew in art was gained by the hardest work, the 
closest and most minute study of nature. He would 
say to me: "Draw, draw, draw. Learn your art 
thoroughly, have it at the tips of your fingers, be 
able to do it with your eyes shut, so that if you have 
anything to express you will be able to do it without 

246 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

the slightest hesitancy. Know forms, know nature, 
as a musician knows his notes before he attempts to 
render a harmony." 

All of my father's work was most painstaking, and 
although at times it would seem that he was dashing 
madly and wildly at a canvas, so rapid was his work 
and so intense his feeling, nevertheless a sure knowl- 
edge of the form he wished to produce could always 
be traced in every touch. No matter with what in- 
tensity he worked, and he often rushed at a canvas 
as though his object were to thrust his fist through 
it, there would be no doubt that it was an elm-tree 
that he wished to represent, and not an oak. He 
would never set a pine-tree where a willow ought to 
grow, or place chrysanthemums in a lily pond. 
When he painted a skunk cabbage he knew just 
where to place it, and when he painted a rainbow it 
was absolutely right, and all the atmospheric condi- 
tions were thoroughly carried out in a truthful and 
scientific manner. To be sure, it might be suggested 
by just a little touch of light, but it would be in the 
right place, and the conditions of light would be ex- 
actly correct to account for its existence. When he 
painted a sunrise it could never be mistaken for a 
sunset. You feel the cool moisture of the morning. 
In his sunsets there is no doubt as to whether it is a 



LIFE, AUT, AND LETTERS 
wet sky or a dry, hot one, because of his cloud forms, 
which he knew as truly as he knew the different trees. 
Looking at an Inness, you instinctively know the kind 
of day it is. 

One day a great many years ago my father and I 
were walking through the old Academy of Design 
at Twenty-third Street and Fourth Avenue when we 
saw a group of artists looking at one of my father's 
pictures, which represented a late afternoon, with the 
sun going down behind a clump of trees as a big ball 
of red. When we approached one of the artists said: 

"Inness, we have just been discussing this beauti- 
ful canvas of yours, but we cannot understand how 
you, who have been such a close student of nature, 
could have painted a sun in your picture that throws 
no shadow from the trees." 

Father looked over his glasses and said: 

"Have you studied nature so little that you don't 
know that if the sun is strong enough to cast a shadow 
of the trees it would burn your eyes out, and you could 
see nothing?" 

When Inness painted a thunder-storm he painted 
thunder-clouds, not wind-clouds. Very few of his 
pictures were finished from nature, and in the later 
days of his life none. His pictures were expressions 
of himself, not imitations of what he saw; they were 
expressions of the feeling the thing he saw wrought 

250 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

upon him. No truly great painting can be done by 
imitating nature alone. A man must study nature 
and master all its details until he knows them so 
thoroughly that when he is painting in his studio 
creating, interpreting an emotion, putting himself on 
the canvas, as it were, for you to love, he does it un- 
consciously. The detail takes care of itself because 
it is there and leaves the true artist free to indulge 
his fancy and let his desire for the beautiful run 
rampant. To gain this great power which Inness 
had and he had it stronger than any painter I ever 
knew he struggled and studied with deep intensity, 
even to the most minute details, things which to-day 
are ridiculed by the men who are trying to invent a 
new way to paint. My father's study from nature 
was very methodical and painstaking from his earliest 
endeavors, and he kept the practice up until a very 
few years before his death. Of course I do not mean 
to imply that he never made quick sketches and almost 
instantaneous impressions from nature, for there are 
many such drawings to prove that he did; but when 
he painted from nature it was a very serious under- 
taking, as the letters to my mother from Milton, 
Siasconset, and Goochland indicate. 

His method was generally to stain a canvas with a 
light-brown tint, say of raw umber, and when dry, 
take it out to the place he had selected, where he 

251 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

would draw in most carefully with charcoal or pencil 
the forms of the things he saw and wished to have in 
the picture. He would often leave out a tree or other 
object that interfered with his composition. After 
the whole was drawn in, and every little crook in the 
limb of the tree that would give character, and every 
little sway in the roof of the barn, the twisting and 
rising and falling of the road, every clump of golden- 
rod or a straggling daisy that found itself out so 
late, would be put in with care, if it lent vigor to the 
composition. If not, it was as though it did not 
exist. Then with raw umber and some strong drier 
he would go over all the outlines, correcting here and 
there a bit of drawing. Then he would paint on the 
lights or opaque parts of his picture as near the local 
color of the object as he could, and the sky a rather 
neutral tone of yellow ocher, black and white. That 
constituted the first day's work; that was alL 

The next day, due to the vehicle he had used, the 
canvas would be dry, and he would rub in the shadows, 
always keeping them transparent, and imitating as 
he went the texture of the rocks, the trees, and the 
grass. I have known him to keep at one study for 
a week or more at a time, using a quick-drying 
medium which enabled him to glaze his picture every 
day if he found it necessary. Glazing is done by 
passing a transparent color such as umber, black, 

252 



THE ART OF GEORGE IXNESS 

sienna, or cobalt over the canvas or parts of it, thinned 
down with oil or some such medium to make it flow. 
This lowers the tone of the canvas, hut brings the 
whole in harmony, and enriches the color of the 
opaque parts of the picture. On this glaze the artist 
generally paints again with opaque color to bring up 
the light and add to the texture. This sometimes has 
the effect of darkening a picture tpo much. In such 
an event the whole canvas has to be scumbled again 
to bring it back to a lighter tone, although this is 
rarely done. 

Scumbling is done by passing an opaque color over 
the picture, say white, yellow ocher, or cadmium. A 
scumble always has to be worked in, and if the shad- 
ows are to be kept transparent, it is necessary to wait 
.another day for the scumble to dry that it may be 
glazed in again. Any transparent color will form a 
glaze. 

Thus, according to this method, my father would 
drive along, glazing down and painting up the lights, 
rubbing and scrubbing, but always keeping the color 
pure until the picture was finished to his satisfaction 
or until he wearied of the subject. 

These canvases rarely got to the public in their 
original condition, but would be worked over in the 
studio and often to such an extent that there was 
nothing left to suggest the subject first painted. 

253 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

This method of painting, glazing, and scumbling, 
scratching and scrubbing, was practised by my father 
continuously, though occasionally he departed from it 
and painted frankly. He did anything that pro- 
duced the effect he wanted, but he usually went back 
to his old love transparent color. 

One day Pop and I were painting in the old Uni- 
versity Building on Washington Square, where we 
had a studio, when a young man appeared. He said 
he was a student at the Art Students League, and 
that he looked upon George Inness as the greatest 
landscape-painter, and would consider it a great privi- 
lege if he might be allowed to watch him paint. 

"Come right in," said my father, "and if you can 
learn anything from me, you are welcome to it. I 
will go on with this picture that I am trying to bring 
into shape. Sit down." Then he squeezed a lot of 
raw umber on his palette, picked up the largest brush 
he could find, and with the aid of a medium that 
looked like Spaulding's glue he went at the canvas 
as though he were scrubbing the floor, smearing it 
over, sky and all, with a thin coat of brown. The 
young man looked aghast, and when Pop was through 
said: 

"But, Mr. Inness, do you mean to tell me that 
you resort to such methods as glazing to paint your 
pictures?" 

254 



THE AUT OF GEORGE INNESS 

Father rushed up to the young man, and, glower- 
ing at him over his glasses, as he held the big brush 
just under his visitor's nose, exclaimed: 

"Young man, have you come here from the Art 
Students League to tell me how to paint? Then go 
back there and tell them I 'd paint with mud if it 
would give me the effect I wanted/* 

In the Art Institute in Chicago there is one of the 
most representative collections of Innesses in the 
country, thanks to the public-spirited generosity of 
Mr. Edward B. Butler of that city, who himself is a 
painter in his leisure moments. This beautiful and 
complete museum of art has devoted an entire room 
to George Inness. It contains twenty-one canvases, 
showing examples of work ranging from 1870 to his 
last period, which continued to within a very short 
time of his death. 

One of these canvases, "The Catskill Mountains/' 
a large picture, dated 1870, shows an afternoon sun 
pouring down from behind blue clouds, tipped with 
opalescent light, which is thrown across the mountain- 
range, permeating the whole scene. The style of it 
is very similar to "Peace and Plenty," and shows his 
earlier methods. You will notice that everything is 
made out with minute delineation. Every tree is 
painted individually and stands apart, this elaboration 
being carried from foreground to distance; and 

255 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

though it has a wonderful envelopment and charm of 
light, it does not deal so strongly with the imaginative 
as does the "Mill-pond/' which was painted at a much 
later period. 

"The Mill-pond" is an upright, and depicts a tall, 
red oak, which fills most of the picture, and by its 
very redness catches the eye. It is necessary to sit 
before this canvas awhile to grasp its full meaning. 
At first you are impressed only with this great mass 
of reddish gold, standing out in intense relief against 
a patch of blue sky. A pond fills the middle distance, 
across which are trees so indistinct and so clothed in 
mystery that at first glance you wonder what they 
are. They are painted in so broad and indefinite a 
way that they seem to lose all sense of individual 
forms, and in contrast to the "Catskill Mountains" 
become a mass of green, partly enveloped in the sky. 
But as you look more carefully you begin to make out 
certain undefinable forms, and little lights and shades 
that take on all sorts of shapes that you were not 
aware of at first. And now straight across the pond 
your eye catches the dam as it leads the water to the 
mill. The mill is not visible to the human eye, but 
your fancy tells you it is hidden snugly behind the 
trees. The charm of this picture is its color and mys- 
tery, and but for a boy and boat upon the lake it 
might seem monotonous ; but this gives a spot of light 

256 




From the Butler coUection In The Art Institute of Chicago 

THE MILL POND 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

and lends human interest to the scene. In a brilliant 
green foreground a gnarled and rotting stump, with 
whitened bark, stands out vividly, bringing to com- 
pletion a beautiful composition. 

In an upright, "Early Morning, Tarpon Springs," 
we have a Florida scene. The tall, straight pines 
stand out against a sky wet with soft, gray mist, 
drifting up into blue. Pink-tipped clouds float lazily 
by, as though they dared not hurry lest they break the 
stillness and the charm of this fresh morning. A 
rosy light brightens up the red-roofed houses clustered 
in the middle distance, and at our feet a shadow veils 
a little bridge which leads across the narrow brook 
to that golden light that fills everything beyond. 

"Threatening" is a picture that was painted in the 
last years of my father's life. It is dated 1891, and 
shows the breadth of technic which characterizes that 
. period. It is just one great vast tone of gray, with 
dark, somber clouds rolling up. Delicately relieved 
against the stormy sky are fresh, green trees. All 
the earth is in a pall of lurid light, cast from a golden 
spot that is fading in the mist, soon to be swallowed 
up in the coming storm. The strongest point of in- 
terest is a low, thatched hut in dark, with the figure 
of a man standing in front, hesitating to venture far 
from shelter. This picture is painted thickly, with 
an enamel, so to speak. 

259 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

In direct contrast of technic to "Threatening," I 
should like to point out to you "Moonlight on Passa- 
maquoddy Bay." This picture is not in the Butler 
collection, and so far I have confined my remarks 
to that room, but from the very way in which this 
canvas is painted I consider it well worth one's while 
to study, and so I must mention it here. It is in the 
Ryerson Collection, in the Art Institute, Chicago, 
and is one of the most remarkable canvases that Inness 
ever did in point of technic. To begin with, it is 
absolutely free from anything that might be called 
academic, but it shows a wonderful skill that could 
come only from the hand of a master who possessed 
a v&st knowledge of forms and detail. This picture 
was done on a pure white canvas with thin washes or 
scrubs of color no thicker than water. The whole 
canvas is nothing but a stain of bluish gray, relieved 
here and there by a tinge of other colors, giving a 
sense of local color. The only thick pigment in the 
whole picture is the moon, which is laid on with a 
solid dab of white. 

The scene represents a hill overlooking the village 
of Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, which nestles on 
the Passamaquoddy Bay at the mouth of the St. Croix 
River. Everything is enveloped in a gray-blue light 
that spreads itself across the river and shows the dim 

260 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

outline of hills beyond. On the hillside smoke rises 
from the chimney of a red house, and the village 
slumbers behind the trees, whence rise delicate and 
almost invisible vapors. You do not see the forms, 
for there are no definite outlines, but you feel them. 
The moon, the only bit of paint, is reflected in the 
quiet, placid bay. The white spire of a church juts 
up into the night sky, and the remarkable thing about 
this form is that it is indicated not by paint, but by 
a few deft and telling scratches of the brush-handle, 
as are likewise indicated the forms of boats and even 
the figure of a man. It is in reality nothing but a 
scratch, but it keeps its place most astonishingly, and 
from the proper distance, say six or eight feet, the 
whole canvas shows forth the most painstaking de- 
tail, true in every touch, with every touch in its right- 
ful place and nothing left to chance. 

I remember very well when my father painted this 
picture and when he saw the scene which inspired it. 
Becoming filled with its romance, he exclaimed: 
"Oh, if I could only catch the subtle mystery of this I 
I will try in the morning." That he succeeded is 
only too well proved in the canvas before us. 

I have not space between these covers to describe 
all of the Butler Collection, and those I have men- 
tioned I have not chosen because I consider them the 

261 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

finest, but because I think they give a fair example 
of the whole, and show the different methods of his 
touch. 

As I sat in the Inness Room on one of the free 
days, when the museum was thronged with visitors, 
I marveled to hear the passing remarks of those who 
had just come from other rooms, where are shown 
beautiful canvases by noted men of more or less ac- 
ademic skill, and to see them sit down and say with 
delight, "It makes me feel that it is real, that I am 
actually there in the fields and woods." It is just 
that that is the charm of Inness. To me Turner is 
grand, dramatic, beautiful in tone and color, fantastic, 
and unreal. Corot is wonderful in tonal quality and 
luminous enamel in his skies, which, with the delicate 
drawing of graceful forms, give his pictures a great 
charm. All is very beautiful, but all is Corot, and 
to me it seems as though he had invented something 
beautiful, or, if not invented, had discovered one phase 
of nature and was there content to stop. But with 
George Inness I feel the very breath of nature. I 
feel as though I were actually with him in the picture 
itself. 

Some artists, to express their appreciation of a 
work of art, use queer expressions. "It's naive," 
"It 's amusing," "It has things in it." I once went 
to the studio of an artist friend and told him that I 

262 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

should like to buy one of his pictures. He showed 
me two that I liked equally well. One represented 
a large boat, the other a landscape. I said I found 
it hard to choose which one I wanted. He told me 
he would choose the boat because it looked so much 
like a Persian rug. I replied: 

"I agree with you; but as I have a Persian rug, 
I wiU take the other." Well, what is art for? To 
be "amusing," to have "things in it/' or to express 
some emotion wrought in one by nature? "Amus- 
ing," "Naive," "Things" do not express the pictures 
of George Inness. He had no tricks. His striving 
was to produce something grand, big, beautiful, true. 

And why does not the buying public get in touch 
with the artist, and read him and learn from him the 
object of art, the way to look al pictures, the way to 
learn to feel, and to get out of nature all that she has to 
tell us? 

A man who is interesting himself in paintings 
should go among the painters, visit their studios, get 
their point of view as to what is fine in art, learn the 
reason why it is fine, learn what is meant by tone, 
drawing, construction. Learn to appreciate art for 
the thought it expresses and the story of life it tells. 
The artist is the only one who can tell him of the art. 
He is the only one who knows. Then why not go 
to him instead of to a dealer whose object is to praise 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

the thing that he can get the biggest price for, and 
whose strongest argument is that what he is selling 
will turn out to be an investment? What is the song 
one most frequently hears among collectors of pic- 
tures? The price he paid for it and what it will be 
worth to him a few years hence. Many collections 
are made for notoriety and a feeling that it will be a 
safe speculation. Its beauty, its art, or the emotion 
it awakens, has nothing to do with it. Paintings 
should be bought because one wants them, loves them, 
wants them about as treasures of beauty, which take 
him out of the turmoil of business and lead him into 
beautiful paths of delightful thoughts. 

Of course it is very delightful to be able to give 
the point of view of different men and to discover 
how they arrived at perfection. But what a relief 
it would be to be taken to some collector's house and 
have him point out a canvas whose painter is unknown 
a canvas, unsigned, but so wonderful in expression 
of light and shade, in color and conception, that he 
considers it one of the gems of his collection! Yes, 
I have known a few, a very few such collectors. 

So many of our ultra-wealthy class neglect the 
chance they have to build up a great art in our own 
new country by encouraging the men of talent that 
they find about them. They hunt the world over to 
find the work of some old masters long since dead, and 

266 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

for whose work they can dare pay enormous prices. 
Some of the works are great and an acquisition to 
this country and a lesson to many an art student, but 
a lot of it is perfect rot, and if produced by a living 
painter, would find it hard to enter one of our exhibi- 
tions, and instead of being worth so many thousands 
of dollars, would hardly bring as many cents. 

With many men there seems to be a rivalry to see 
who will pay the biggest price for an old master, and 
I have no doubt that one of these days some brave 
multi-millionaire will have the courage to pay a mil- 
lion dollars for a canvas. Of course just now that 
would be a little high and might bring on some 
ridicule. 

And, now, how shall we train the painter? I was 
not very long ago asked to visit an art school. I 
was taken into a room where a class of the younger 
pupils were at work. One girl of about fourteen 
years was pointed out as the most promising student 
in the class. There she sat at an easel, a palette on 
her thumb, with enough gobs of paint upon it to cover 
the outside of the town hall. She had on a blouse 
which clothed her from head to foot, and this was 
covered with all the colors of the rainbow, and twice 
as many besides. She had paint on her hands, paint 
on her face, and on her hair and shoes. She was 
painting from a model, an old lady; it was the por- 

267 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

trait class. The child's canvas was a great mass of 
gobs of paint that stood out in relief and cast long 
shadows across it. The hideous smears had no re- 
semblance to a human form. There were great green 
daubs for eyes, a streak of black in lieu of a mouth, 
and streaks of yellow, green, pink, and blue for color 
of the face. I looked aghast, but said nothing. 
How could I? I was invited there to praise, not to 
criticize. The instructor told me she considered this 
child her most promising pupil. 

"You see," she said, "she has originality; she sees 
the whole as an impression and her color is brilliant" 

I asked if they had a class in drawing from cast. 

"Oh, no," she replied; "we do not wish to hamper 
them by mere imitation." 

This is not a fair sample of all schools, but there is 
more of this sort of teaching than there should be, 
and more than would be believed by any one this side 
of an insane asylum; and from such schools as these 
we have obtained many works to fill many walls of 
the Grand Central Palace in New York and other 
places of exhibition. 

In the good old days when Inness learned to paint 
lie had to go to Barker in Newark, who gave him 
first a copy-card to work from, then a block of plaster, 
then a bottle, ball, or hoop, to learn to make it square 
or round, as the case may be, to train the hand to 

268 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

make the form, to train the eye to see. So every 
student should begin. The old way is the best to 
train the hand to make the things the student sees. 
After he learns the forms and how to make them he 
is ready to study art, and learn by the combination of 
colors and lines to represent the things he wants to 
interpret. After he has accomplished this feat he is 
well equipped to try in any way he can to express 
himself in art, 

No man has yet attained a high mark in art, in 
any art that will live, without having gone through 
the hardest kind of training. There is no short road 
to art. Genius alone never made an artist. And 
mark my words, there will come a time when there 
will hardly be ash-barrels enough to cart away the 
stuff that is classed as art to-day. 

What would Corot be without his graceful line, 
his superb drawing? Or Millet or Rousseau or 
Troyon or any one of them whose canvases are bring- 
ing large prices, and are sought after by those who 
would have the best? The man whose canvas looks 
as though a flock of crows had danced across it may 
have his day. Awards have been given for fantastic 
daubs of decomposed, misshapen, naked ladies .dis- 
porting amid dust-brush trees and gobs of gaudy 
paint and pools of slime, reflecting cotton-batting 
clouds, and chimneys all askew, and flat-iron buildings 

271 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

and metropolitan skyscrapers that lean like Pisa's 
tgwer. 

The same thing exists in all the arts, in literature, 
in drama, and in music. For God's sake! let us 
awake from this hideous nightmare and come back to 
.truth and purity and sense! 

Some men have accused Inness of lack of technic 
and of early training in his art; that he did not make 
of himself as good a craftsman as others might have 
made of him; that he was never thoroughly grounded 
in the grammar of painting, with a none too certain 
hand; sketchy, faulty drawing, scratchy, glazy, 
scrubby, tortured in the attempt to get effects; dots 
for cows and other figures, careless spots that take 
no form, etc. Take for instance this criticism, which 
appeared in the New York "Evening Post/* January 
5, 1895, which was otherwise complimentary: 

He had the mind of a Romanticist, keen in its artistic 
perceptions, and very susceptible to emotional impression, 
but capricious, headlong, impulsive, prone to extravagance 
and given to chimerical theories. It lacked in repose and 
it lacked in tenacity. Seeking for truth, it too often ran 
hopelessly to error, through pursuit of fancy and lack of 
definite aim. 

Perhaps s6me of his failure to realize fully his ideal was 
due to a faulty hand. He never received a thorough tech- 
nical training. His was not a nature that could or would 
submit to any working out of a formula but his own, and 
so he soon abandoned masters. He was not, however, a 

27S 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

provincial or ill-educated painter, by any means. The art 
of the world was better known to him than to many Pari- 
sians. He traveled much and knew the methods of others 
quite well. . . . 

Not even Rousseau and the Fontainebleau painters could 
make him pay the compliment of imitation, or assimilation, 
He followed no one. A self-reliant man, he was, as regards 
his technic, a self-made man, and as is usually the case, he 
did not make of himself so good a craftsman as others might 
have made of him. He was never thoroughly grounded in 
the grammar of painting, and sometimes his drawing will 
not parse, nor the lighting of his foregrounds agree in gender, 
number and person with the lighting of his backgrounds. 
Some painters have a way of complaining that their technic 
bothers them, which to their hearers means only that they 
do not see truly; but that was not the case with Inness. 
He saw truly enough, but failing to reach his aim at the 
first dash he doubted himself, took another course, and even- 
tually encountered the same difficulty the inability to real- 
ize conception. 

Part of this failure was due, as we have said, to a not 
too certain hand. The eye saw clearly enough, as witness 
the fine sun effect of the "Gleaners," but he never carried the 
picture to completion. The technical problem was too much 
for him. Many of the pictures in this collection bear wit- 
ness to the technical difficulties he met with. They, are said 
to be sketches, but there is hardly a free first sketch in the 
gallery. They are pictures kneaded, thumbed, scraped, 
glazed, tortured in the attempt to get effects. And this 
uncertainty of hand grew upon him as he advanced in years. 
His early pictures are sharp and hard in outline, but they 
are struck off easily. In his later works, notably "The 
Beeches," "The Coming Storm," and the "Red Oaks" he is 

273 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

labored, mealy in texture and thoroughly weary of his task. 
Yet we are disposed to unsay our words when we meet with 
the "Passing Storm" of the Halsted Collection. Here it 
looks as though a master hand with great power had drawn 
the old willow and put in the stormy sky with a sure, swift 
touch. The picture is as strong as though done freely 
under first inspiration. 

There has been so much extravagant talk about Inness 
since his death that it seems necessary for some one to 
point out his limitations, but we would not be understood 
as saying he was all limitation. On the contrary he accom- 
plished much, and no landscape-painter in the history of 
American art holds higher rank. With more mental balance 
and a surer technic he would have been the greatest land- 
scape-painter of any time or people. His limitations de- 
nied him that rank, but still left him among the great ones. 
He was an extremely sensitive and impressionable organiza- 
tion, a man of great originality, and his collected pictures 
show that he was versatile and possessed of many resources. 
He was always recording his impression, using facts about 
him, merely as pegs to hang it upon, never given to detail, 
and always wrapped up in the sentiment of light, color and 
atmosphere. These he in many canvases displayed with con- 
vincing power, and occasionally he grasped the strength of 
landscape in a way that would have put Rousseau to his 
mettle in equaling. There was never anything small or petty 
about either his conception or execution. His vision was 
broad, and all his life he was striving for the ensemble of 
earth, air, sky and light. He knew they were a unit and 
could figure it out cleverly with geometrical figures, and it 
was his great aim to demonstrate it in art. He never did 
demonstrate it to his own satisfaction, but he certainly 
made his aim intelligible to many people, and to many more 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

gave an idea of the majesty of creation which they never 
could grasp from nature itself. Such achievement is not 
failure, but success great success. 

Now, in all these seeming "limitations" which are 
cited in the above article lay Inness's power, a certain 
power which was never possessed by any other artist; 
for it was the very working out of his own training, 
his indefatigable search for truth, the assiduous study 
of different methods and craftsmanship, that gave 
him his power of technic. And as for craftsmanship 
and certainty of hand, he surpassed them all, as many 
a canvas testifies, where pigment is put on with a 
firmness and precision that might well be envied by 
the greatest of the craftsmen. All this skill of technic 
he had, but he was ever trying to disguise the crafts- 
manship and show you nature, mysterious, suggestive, 
lights and shades that come and go, clouds that move 
and take on ever-changing shapes. It was through 
this great knowledge of the grammar of art that he is 
able to hold the attention of all who look into his pic- 
tures, and to show you new things at every glance. 
As the eye wanders over the canvas you discover 
things you did not see before: some moving form, a 
figure emerging from beneath the trees, a puff of 
smoke or vapor rising from behind the distant hills. 
With these things he leads your fancy on and makes 
you forget that it is paint and canvas before you. 

275 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

The thought of technic is lost in the larger emotion of 
the grandeur of nature. 

How often have you, while wandering through a 
wood, seen forms that look like things you know. 
Sometimes you think it is a man strolling through 
the far-away field, to find later that it is only a with- 
ered stump or clump of grass; or perhaps a spot of 
light that speaks of sparkling water where you may 
slake your thirst proves to be, on near approach, 
nothing but a whitened rock that is peeping from the 
underbrush. Nature is full of sounds and forms that 
awaken the imagination and fill the earth with vi- 
brancy and with life. It is this that Inness gives you 
in his canvases. He gives you nature with all her 
subtlety. 

He never tried to make a skilful work of art. He 
was so skilful that he could disguise that very skill, 
so that he almost attained his great ambition to paint 
a picture without paint. And I should like to quote 
here Mr. Victor Harris, who owns the "Moonrise." 
When asked what name a picture had, he said: 

"Inness pictures need no names; they all speak 
nature." This canvas, "Moonrise," is one of the most 
beautiful things my father ever did. In subtlety of 
tone and richness of quality it is surpassed by none. 

I have never known a picture that can be grasped 
at one glance, that is startling and attracts the eye 

276 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

by its vigorous painting and striking form alone, that 
carries, as some would express it, to- satisfy me. ^A^ 
^work of art must have subtlety of tone and a certain 
amount of mystery that can never be seen at first 
glance* It must be looked at a long time before its 
subtle tones can be grasped; and if it is great, it 
grows upon you, and the longer you look, the more 
you see, and to describe it is almost impossible, be- 
cause you never see it twice alike. It changes with- 
your mood. It is a thing to live with. You study 
it, you learn to see the soul of it. It is like a face 
that becomes beautiful because you have learned to 
knowjand love the soul behind it. When a picture 
gives you this effect, it is great art. This is the great- 
ness of Inness. 

One night while in Chicago I was dining at the 
home of my friend Ralph Cudney, and' we drifted 
into the subject of art. We mentioned the simplicity 
of nature found in Inness canvases. 

"Yes," said Cudney, "they always give me the feel- 
ing of nature. They seem to take me back to my 
childhood, which was spent in the woods of the 
Schawangunk Mountains. They are not photographs 
of trunks of trees and rocks and things, but just out- 
of-doors. I feel that I am home again on the old 
farm, where I drove the cows, and when tired after 
work I sit down here and rest beside my Innesses. 



LIFE, AUT, AND LETTERS 

I have six of them. Which one I like the best I 
cannot say, sometimes it is this one, sometimes that; 
hut they all tell the sweet story of the woods and 
fields* 

"In this one, 'Twilight/ I feel as though I, and 
not the girl on the canvas, am going for the cows, 
crossing that .log that spans the brook. Yes, there 
is something in these canvases of Inness that fills me 
with a sense of rest/* 

The whole story of the genius and the mission of 
Inness seems to me to be summed up in a little story 
told to me by Mr. Thomas B. Clarke. 

"There was a time," said Mr. Clarke, "when every- 
thing in life seemed lost to me. All the sunshine was 
gone, and the weight of sorrow was heavy on my 
heart. One whom I loved dearly had been suddenly 
stricken and taken from me, and with her going went 
all the gladness of life. Your father had often talked 
to me of his beliefs and of the life beyond, and of 
the message he was trying to send out in his pictures 
but I never understood. 

"In the grief that was almost too heavy to bear I 
wandered about the house like a lost soul. I was in- 
consolable. I happened to glance up at a little In- 
ness which I owned and always loved, *A Gray, Low- 
ery Day/ and like a burst of life your father's mes- 
sage of hope and eternity came over me. He spoke 

278 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

through that little canvas, and my soul understood 
what my mind had not* I was a different man from 
that hour. It was the only thing that could console 



me." 



If that picture had been the only one Inness ever 
painted, his life would have been worth while and 
his destiny fulfilled; but I believe that every living 
picture is giving out the same message, and that In- 
ness lives forever, speaking to us in his canvases and 
fulfilling that immortal destiny which was the passion 
of his life. 

It is pleasant to travel with Inness on a hot, sultry 
day, to sit beside the cooling brook, and watch the 
fallen leaf drift sluggishly by, and wonder how it 
will feel when it reaches the mill-dam and is hurled 
over the brink with a dash that crumples it up in a 
smother of foam, and finally casts it well out into the 
placid pond, to sit and swelter in the sun until the 
breeze springs up from that cloud which is lying on 
the horizon and comes to waft it to the shore, to make 
a bed for a dragon-fly or some lazy tadpole, as we 
can so easily do in his landscapes. 

Or take another canvas, with its cumulus-clouds, 
its thunder-heads lying low behind the distant hills. 
You wonder if that load of hay drawn by its lumber- 
ing oxen will reach the red barn in the valley before 
the storm breaks upon them. 

281 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

Then the one with rushing clouds and blackened 
landscape. A light appears in the west, a little patch 
of blue. It is going to clear, and you want to thrust 
out the back of your hand to see if it is still raining 
before venturing out of the barn where you have 
taken refuge. 

And then you travel with him to a lonely dell, to 
sit on a rock and watch the twilight fade behind the 
trees and know the day is done. It makes you think 
of what it carries of the past and to form some resolu- 
tion for the morrow. All these things the Inness 
pictures give in an amazing degree. This is their 
mission to send out a message of truth. George 
Inness tells a story in every canvas, and always tells 
a story of love, hope, and peace. 

I attach little importance to the influence that for- 
eign travel had on the art of Inness. How would he 
have developed without this travel? Of course we 
are all influenced more or less by what we see in 
others, their methods of painting, the way they use 
the brush or palette-knife or thumb* Volon painted 
fish and kettles with his thumb, and got some pleas- 
ing tones. The Barbison painters glazed and got 
transparent color. Cazan mixed a lot of tones on his 
palette with some such color as umber as a base. This 
gave him soft, velvety tones, which enveloped his 
whole picture and gave tEe same texture to sky, 

288 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 
houses, trees, water, and rocks. It is all velvet, and 
very sweet and mushy. Now, all these tricks are of 
value, and a student would naturally adopt one or 
the other that would give him the texture he pre- 
ferred. Probably Inness found in the Barbison 
painters a method that he liked. That he found 
among the Frenchmen a broader way of painting, 
that gave a bigger sense of nature, there is no doubt, 
but had he not had these advantages would his later 
development have been different? I think not, for 
from the very start he strove to overthrow the old 
' traditions, and tried to paint the landscape as he 
saw and felt it, and he would have arrived at the same 
result, for he surpassed them all in breadth and truth 
of nature* He always was George Inness and al- 
ways painted Inness, and where he best succeeded 
was here in the American landscape that he loved. 
The landscapes that he painted while abroad never 
reached the grandeur and the beauty of the things 
he did at home. And the pictures that he painted at 
three-score years and nine were the greatest of them 
all. We have produced many painters and some 
great ones, but never one who takes one out to nature 
in all its moods v and makes him feel her very breath 
as Inness does. 

His pictures are always beautifully composed, and 
with a thorough balance and completeness* As I 

283 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

have said before, one can always look into an Inness 
picture. It is complete in every part, so that the 
eye travels from one object to another without effort, 
and everything is enveloped and held within the 
vision. Many paintings are so faulty in perspective 
and drawing that it is impossible to see both ends of 
the canvas at the same time, no matter how small it 
may be. This fault is never found in Inness. He 
paints only what the eye can take in in one vision. 

Cut a hole in a piece of paper, say two by three 
inches, then measure diagonally across it from corner 
to corner, the distance being about three and a half 
inches. Multiply this by three, and the result is ten 
and a half inches. Now hold the paper ten and a 
half inches from the eye, and whatever can be seen 
through the opening can be grasped in one vision. 
Hold it closer to the eye, and it will be necessary to 
shift the eye to see all that is contained within the 
opening. My father held invariably to this mathe- 
matical exactness which gives a perfect harmony of 
vision. 

Let us take the canvas entitled "Under the Green- 
wood" from the point of view of composition. 
It is an upright and represents a wooded hillside, 
with sheep and a boy in it. Now, in the first place 
my father has painted a large oak tree exactly in 

84 




UNDER THE GREENWOOD 



THE ART OF GEORGE INKESS 

the middle of the picture. This makes a very bad 
composition and gives a sense of unbalance; so to 
counteract this, he puts a nearer tree to the left of it 
and leans it away from the oak. This acts as a bal- 
ance and gives a harmony of line. He then puts 
the figure of a boy in the right-hand foreground to 
make another balance, and to relieve the foreground 
of monotony. Then he puts a strong light on the 
trunk of the oak, and to balance the light he repeats 
it on the leaning tree. Then he carries the light to 
the upper right-hand corner of the picture in the 
form of a white cloud. Now he has three lights in a 
row. This is awkward, and stops abruptly; so he 
puts a light to the right of the picture, which takes 
the form of a path. This gives him a harmony of 
line and a graceful play of light. But he finds the 
boy in the foreground out of place and too abrupt. 
He does not want to take it out, for it gives interest 
to the foreground; so he puts a dark sheep between 
the boy and the oak, which makes another balance. 
But he is not yet quite satisfied. There is too much of 
a jump from the dark sheep to the light on the oak, 
and there is not enough incident; so he paints in a 
group of sheep in light near the trunk and silhou- 
ettes the dark sheep against a light strip of middle 
distance. Then, to give a dramatic power to the 

287 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

whole, he paints a black shadow in the background. 
But now he finds a lack of interest at the left of the 
leaning tree, and puts in another sheep. The com- 
position is now complete, and as he would express 
it, "needs only a little tickling up here and there, and 
we have a perfect harmony , v None of these spots 
of light and lines and figures are put in haphazard. 
They have each and all been thought out to give ex- 
pression to the story he wished to tell and the whole 
composition, though elaborate, is within the field of 
vision. 

I have cited examples enough of composition, color, 
tone, and medium to show just how he painted; so 
now dropping technic, let *s take a stroll among some 
Inness canvases, and see him only in his different 
moods. 

Here is a peaceful valley, with here and there a 
clump of elms the tops of which are tipped with light 
from rays of the sun, which dips below the hills be- 
hind you. A field of golden grain glistens with the 
drops of rain that still cling to it. All is quiet in the 
grain-field here below that only a moment since was 
writhing in the tempest that is rushing overhead. It 
drives great clouds before it, which rush and tumble, 
swooping now and then to dash themselves against 
a mountain-top, and then to rise again, to be envel- 
oped in a ray of light that turns them into molten 

288 



THE ART OF GEORGE INNESS 

gold. As they rush along, the sign of promise is dis- 
closed, and all 's at rest again, and birds sing out their 
praises to the sun. 

And now let 's stroll with Inness through this low 
marshland. It 's all in silver gray, but as we look 
we see the sky is flecked with opalescent light sifting 
through blackened smoke, which belches from the 
distant chimney top. Now it is lighted by the sun, 
which has changed that belt of saw-grass to a mat 
of yellow gold. And see that little cloud that 's aris- 
ing just beyond. It grows, and changes into in- 
digo, and on its edge a rainbow rests. Now a shadow 
throws a blanket on the ground that lends intense- 
ness to the scene and glorifies the sign of promise 
beyond. 

Now here we have a stretch of dark-blue sea, the 
distant line of which is lost in darkened vapor, from 
out of which there peeps a blood-red sun. But up 
above the cloud there shines the golden glory of the 
west, which studs the sand with diamonds at our feet. 

And now see a maddened, rushing sky that is all 
ablaze, as though the whole world were aflame, and 
from beyond a locomotive pours out smoke as black 
as night, and gives the feeling that something fear- 
some is about. 

And here, in this little one, a placid brook reflects 
a mellow twilight sky, which silhouettes the figure of 



LIFE, ART, AND LETTERS 

a boy, who casts a stone to frighten the bird that is 
rising from the marsh. 

Once more, view the whirling, swirling clouds, 
which almost touch the earth in their mad race across 
the plain strewn with leaves and broken branches from 
the trees. A flock of crows are drifting with the gale, 
and fleck the scene with spots of black and fear. 

Before we turn away, let 's cross this field that is 
bathed with soft, gray, mellow light that gives a 
sense of stillness, not of the grave, but of the kind 
that follows some great strain of music that has died 
away, and left a hush of awe, as through the limpid 
gray we see a mellow disk. It is the harvest moon, 
which calls us to the wealth of all the earth, and brings 
us peace with nature and with God. 



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